Comfortable and Furious

Smokey and the Bandit 2


There was a time in this country’s history when Burt Reynolds had the muscle, the power, and the hairy-chested clout to make a two-hour vanity project consisting of little more than car chases, explosions, and a pregnant elephant under the care of Dom DeLuise. Back in his salad days circa 1980 Reynolds was this country’s top box office
draw; a sex symbol extraordinaire, action hero, and treasured icon who could literally do no wrong. He was so untouchable, in fact, that no one seemed to notice that for an extended period of time, he “acted” in pretty much the same movie time after time.

These bloated ego vehicles were critic-proof, of course, but charmed unsophisticated
audiences from coast to coast. Check out the roster of hits: The Cannonball Run, Sharky’s Machine, The Cannonball Run II, Stroker Ace, Malone, Rent-a-Cop – all slight twists on a central Reynolds theme, that of a self-proclaimed star who was always thought to be the funniest man on screen at any given time. If his pants weren’t too
tight, then he’d flash that glistening, unending chest that never seemed to run out of hair. Whether smacking his gum or winking into the camera, Reynolds had a nation by the balls and was but one step from running for office. Reality eventually hit all too hard, but at the time of his second Bandit venture, he was our Jesus, albeit with one helluva moustache.


It’s no exaggeration to say that for all of its 100 minutes, Smokey
and the Bandit II
is nothing more than Burt’s home movies, featuring
good buddies and lovers alike, from Jerry Reed to Sally Field. Jackie
Gleason even reappears as no less than three different characters, all
drunken, irritating slobs with fat oozing past their belts. As
previously mentioned, though, it is DeLuise who gives Reynolds a true
run for his ego, and his atrocious accent and painful mugging nearly
hijack the movie. It is evident in their scenes together that Burt and
Dom improvised the entire picture, as dialogue this bad could only
have come from the mind of the person spouting such inherent nonsense.
How else to explain Burt’s self-pitying monologues about the curse of
celebrity and how difficult it is to be so damned sexy? And it’s just
as telling that nearly all of Reed’s scenes are with his basset hound,
as only an animal wouldn’t have the heart (or ability) to tell him
that his jokes simply weren’t funny. As Reed informs Burt for what
must be the 335th time that there’s a “smokey up ahead,” we cringe at
the realization that yes, this country was once enveloped by the CB
craze. What form of pop culture kitsch haven’t we fallen for?

The final set piece, featuring at least 10,000 police cars and another
15,000 big rigs, takes place on some wide, endless desert and in its
own way is the most macho sequence ever committed to celluloid. Within
the span of ten minutes, cars are crushed, flown through the air,
stripped of their tops, and ground into dust. It’s like the world’s
largest demolition derby brought to life. I’d be hard pressed to find
anything as ridiculous in all my cinematic travels, but I’ve never
failed to watch the thing in its entirety. As millions of dollars meet
with Burt’s testosterone-laden torch, we realize with a gasp that
wasting money is both the saddest and easiest thing for Hollywood
pricks to do without really trying. The budget for the final scene
alone would have fed the entire African continent throughout the
decade of the Eighties, eliminating any need for the self-important
Live-Aid. How horribly fitting that as Reaganism beckoned, America’s
biggest cock used sheer arrogance to take a giant shit on a small

And yet, as this is Bullshit I Love, I couldn’t help but wonder how
much worse/better it could have been without the elephant subplot. We
all wanted Burt and Jackie to chase each other across the country for
some cheap liquor and the promise of quick cash, but at what stage
were the hijinks thought to require an elephant giving birth? What, to
show that the Bandit had a softer side and could put others before
himself? Such scenes are included, but only after Burt is lectured by
Sally Field for being a heartless creep. Even as I’m typing, I’m
shuddering with disbelief. As watchable as this excrement truly is, I
don’t have any idea what those involved had in mind. And yet,
according to sources, this film made $66 million at the box office
back in the summer of ’80, and this within shouting distance of The
Empire Strikes Back!
What a time indeed for old Burt, and even the
comeback of an Oscar nomination couldn’t possibly equal those glory
days a quarter-century ago; where all it took was a red leather
jacket, a black Trans-Am, and endless miles of highway to seduce the