*. When discussing Burt Reynolds it’s often said that there’s a Good Burt and a Bad Burt, the latter being most easily identified by his moustache. The Good Burt played well in good movies. The Bad Burt was in far more popular movies where he was . . . well, all he needed to be.
*. Watching Smokey and the Bandit II I found myself wondering whether, if you’d only seen Reynolds in movies like Smokey and the Bandit or The Cannonball Run, you would think he could act at all. I think the most you would be able to say is that he had charm. But that charm wore off in a hurry, even when treated in a winking, self-referential manner, as it is here (a manner that, I think, is also supposed to be charming).
*. But as I say, Burt was just doing what he was supposed to do. And in his defence, he thought this sequel nothing but a stupid cash grab (which it was). His co-star, Sally Field, would consider it the worst movie she ever made. Critics came down hard. Roger Ebert called it “basically just the original movie done again, not as well.” Not nearly as well, I would say.
*. To give you some idea of just how stupid and thoughtless it is: how are we supposed to believe that the Frog we knew and loved in the first movie has gone back to marry Junior? They couldn’t think of any other way to reintroduce the same characters except to replay the exact same situation?
*. Nobody seemed to care. In the face of the critical brickbats director Hal Needham took out ads in the trade papers featuring quotes from negative reviews alongside a picture of himself sitting beside a wheelbarrow full of cash.
*. That same spirit of cynicism finds its way into the film. Everyone has their price. Even the fellow running the animal park isn’t going to let Charlotte give birth on his grounds until the Bandit pays him off. Yes, the Bandit calls him a putz later, but he’s no different from anyone else in the film.
*. Ebert didn’t know why the elephant had to be taken to Texas. They never say, but I assume she’s to be the mascot at the Republican convention. What I couldn’t understand is why the Burdette’s want to help out. How do they profit from pre-empting the Governor, whose responsibility this is? I feel like something got left out of the script here.
*. There’s not much more to say. Dom DeLuise shows up as a gluttonous (naturally) Italian doctor with an accent he soon tires of. Mean Joe Greene flips the sheriff’s car, causing Buford T. Justice to expostulate “I knew this would happen as soon as they started that bussin’ shit!” Then we meet Buford’s brother, who is a flaming queen named Gaylord. And I thought this was kind of sad, because there was a time when Gaylord was a normal, or at least not uncommon name before it became a slur.
*. The highlight here is a giant smash-up derby between transport trucks and squad cars in the desert. It makes no sense at all, and has no point, but we get to see lots of cars smashed up in different ways while Snowman and the Bandit go “Wah-hoo!” “Woo-hoo!” and “Woo! Woo! Woo!”
*. How awful were those tight jeans? Burt’s are even tighter than Sally’s. At the time this was the style. One can and should be thankful that the bellbottoms from the first film have gone away, but fashion is cruel.
*. There was a chance they might have done something interesting here with the whole idea of the Bandit having become a legend in his own mind — “one of the most beloved grass-root folk heroes in America!” — but this is so underdeveloped I couldn’t really figure out why they were bothering with it. This isn’t a movie that wants to poke fun at itself, and I don’t know why not. Maybe it’s too busy laughing at us.
*. It was not quite the end of the line. There would be a Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, but Reynolds would only drop in at the end of it in a cameo and Field had moved on. It’s sometimes regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. So just a small step down from this.