Review #945: Smokey and the Bandit II.
Burt Reynolds (Bo "Bandit" Darville), Jackie Gleason (Sheriff Buford T. Justice / Gaylord Justice / Reginald Van Justice), Jerry Reed (Cledus "Snowman" Snow), Dom DeLuise (Dr. Frederico "Doc" Carlucci), Sally Field (Carrie/"Frog"), Paul Williams (Little Enos Burdette), Pat McCormick (Big Enos Burdette), David Huddleston (John Coen), Mike Henry (Junior Justice), John Anderson (Governor), and Brenda Lee (Nice Lady) Directed by Hal Needham (#033 - Smokey and the Bandit and #034 - The Cannonball Run)
It's hard to believe it has been over 900 reviews (and six years) since I watched and reviewed Smokey and the Bandit. It is only fitting that I return to do the sequel, after all these days.
When I reviewed the first film in April of 2011, I called it a "load of fun", in part because it really was an enjoyable piece of entertainment. When it comes to the sequel, it is evident quite immediately that it is inferior in pretty much every way to the original. From the comedy to the stunts to the entertainment value to the heart, it is not only a disappointment but it is also a lazy kind of movie. Not only does this feel like a rehash of the first film, it is a bad imitation that only serves producers who wanted to make a profit of the Bandit name. Reynolds himself has admitted his displeasure with the film in interviews, stating how it was an unnecessary sequel, and I can't help but agree.
It's not so much that the actors are terrible, it's the writing that sinks the movie to a level that it never recovers from. Reynolds and Field have decent chemistry when they are simply allowed to interact and not have lines about why their characters broke up in the first place. It would've been better to just have them just be a couple then having this whole thing where they just argue (of course the parts before Field show up where the Bandit is a sad drunk aren't any better). The parts where Bandit has become a sort of folk hero don't really help the film as it does just be a lazy way of invoking the first film over and over again. Reed does a fine job as expected, with "Texas Bound and Flyin" being an adequate title song for the film (though obviously nothing tops "Eastbound and Down"). It's interesting to see Gleason back again, especially when he plays three characters in one scene (through trick photography), and his parts with Henry are useful enough. DeLuise is charming as always, but he doesn't really bring anything to the movie more than just a few Italian phrases; this happened to be filmed around the same time as The Cannonball Run, which while not exactly a great piece of work is easily better than this film, while also having better scenes of Reynolds and DeLuise. The fact that Williams and McCormick don't show up in the movie again after they recruit the main characters also doesn't help, considering they drive the plot (wanting an elephant delivered to a political convention). The fact that everything feels like a caricature doesn't help either.
The only trick that the film seems to have up its sleeve is a big sequence involving 50 cars and semi-trucks piling on each other in the desert, with destruction after destruction. However it only manages to come off as just going through the motions, feeling like a cartoon. The whole movie feels like a dumb cartoon, and it really seems to drag after the first hour or so. It's amusing (in a mocking kind of way) how they don't even end up delivering the elephant to Dallas on time, because of course not. It ends with Justice trying to chase them down on a bus, perfectly encapsulating the lazy nature of a film that comes and goes without a payoff. There are no real stakes, nor are there any moments where I felt like I needed to care about anything that happens. On the whole, the best thing I can say about the movie is that it makes the viewer want to see the original film again. I hope I didn't go too long with my critique, folks.
Overall, I give it 3 out of 10 stars.