Smokey And The Bandit: Part II

***

Reviewed by: Mimmo

After the success of Smokey And The Bandit in 1977, the film provided one of the early samples of our modern era of cinematic franchising. Part II follows the formula of the original closely enough, and in spirit, also. Part III (1983) doesn't star either Burt Reynolds or Sally Field (it has a guest appearance from Reynolds in the closing minutes) and is the weakest of the trio, or, let's say, lightest of the light.

Over 20 years on you can see why the series earned pop cultural iconic status. Much of the charm of Smokey and its twin, Part II, is that Reynolds and Field seem so natural they could be playing themselves - and pretty much repeated the same characters elsewhere; with the exception of Deliverance, and, much later, Boogie Nights.

Reynolds is the Southern American hombre, decked out in jeans and cowboy boots, whose love of cars is matched by his attachment to a young girl named Fog. In Part II, as in the original, the young 'un is a runaway bride from a marriage with the oh-so-dim son of Sheriff Buford T Justice (aka. Smokey), played by the late Jackie Gleason, who tail-assed the Bandit memorably in the first film. This time, the chase - or rather, the pretext for the chase - centres on transporting an elephant from one end of the South to another in a bet with the Ensie brothers. Once again accompanied by his friend, the hick truck driver Snowman (played by country and western star Jerry Reed), the Bandit and his companions rip roar from Florida to Texas with the inevitable wake of wrecked police cars behind them.

Many of the sight gags still get a laugh, but the difference between Smokey I and Smokey II involves the appearance of a farcical kind of humour. The Justice enlists his twin brothers and their respective police forces to trap the Bandit, leaving you less impressed by the numbers of cars that pile up acrobatically than thinking what scriptwriter came up with this cheap shot.

This is true for just about all of Smokey And The Bandit which begins with references to Star Wars (in a prologue script) and goes on to present Buford as George C Scott's Patton. It's a sorry conclusion for a vehicle that ran out of steam. Buford rather than the Bandit accepts a bet with the scheming Texan twins to transport a publicity ad for their fast food company, running the usual fandango up and down the country. They employ Snowman, too, to dress up as the Bandit to distract him. You can't watch without feeling that the apparently guileless charm of the original, still carried over into some of the second, has become a "high concept" movie that answers the wishes of the studio execs.

These films contain a flavour of the nostalgia for car-thrilled and politically incorrect fun they offer, before the series is revamped and Smokey And The Bandit IV comes out.

Reviewed on: 07 Jun 2005
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Smokey And The Bandit: Part II packshot
The second in a three part franchise of the Southern hombre and his love of car chases.
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Director: Hal Needham

Writer: Jerry Belson, Brock Yates

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed. Dom DeLuise, Paul Williams, Pat McCormick, David Huddleston, Mike Henry

Year: 1980

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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