Smokey and the Bandit II (1980)

(Second viewing, On DVD, September 2017) While Smokey and the Bandit II is a noticeable step down from the first film, I find it fascinating to see that I remembered more of it from boyhood memories than the first film (specifically the end stunt sequences). As a grown-up, there’s almost no limit to the ways this sequel is worse than the original: The set-up makes no sense, the film sabotages itself in ensuring that it revisits the same dynamics from the first film, the irritation caused by Jackie Gleason’s character is magnified (and multiplied by the indulgent use of Dom Deluise) and the whole elephant plot device slows down what should have been a pedal-to-the-metal action comedy. The one thing that the sequel does better than the first is the final demolition derby: While none of the stunts make sense from a story perspective, it’s a special kind of fun to see director/stuntman Hal Needham go crazy with a hundred police cars ready to be scrapped and just film whatever metal-tearing silliness his team can conjure. Otherwise, it’s another excuse to see Burt Reynolds effortlessly charm audiences (although he first has to dig himself out of a contrived pit of overacted despair) and while his banter with Sally Field isn’t as strong this time around, there’s still a little bit of what was so special in the first movie. Otherwise, most reviewers since the film’s release have gotten it right: this is a pure cash grab of a sequel, unnecessary and not particularly well executed. If you’re out of time, just skip to the last twenty minutes or so to see the stunts.

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