I know that I can often be sarcastic in my reviews. I can also sometimes be apologetic. There are moments of anger and occasional moments of rambling nonsense (okay, let's be honest, there are more than occasional moments of rambling nonsense . . . . . . . . . it's actually my preferred writing style). But I hope that people don't mistake the following for sarcasm or nonsense or even something that I'm going to apologise for. Smokey & The Bandit II is a bloody good movie, slightly superior to the first film and just a whole load of laughs in the company of great characters.
All of the main characters return, though not in exactly the same condition. Burt Reynolds is The Bandit, Jerry Reed is Cledus AKA The Snowman, Sally Field is Carrie AKA Frog, Jackie Gleason is Sheriff Buford T. Justice and Mike Henry is the witless Junior. Even Big Enos (Pat McCormick) and Little Enos (Paul Williams) return, if only to start things off with a job offer. Nobody wants alcohol moved this time. It's something much bigger than that. And much livelier.
Hal Needham is back in the director's chair and actually shows some skill he would seem to have hidden away for the majority of his career. The car stunts and action are, as you would expect, competently handled but this has a lot more to it than JUST fast cars and a load of chuckles.
The Bandit enjoyed showing off, he loved doing what he was best at, and he was/is very famous because of it. But that fame has changed him in ways that he doesn't want to inspect too closely and certainly doesn't want to admit to. He's been surrounded by the adoring fans, he released the unsuccessful song, he was a name synonymous with legendary deeds. And then he wasn't. The Bandit is stuck in a sad place, wanting to reclaim former glories while random people feel the need to tell him just what an asshole they think he is. And when he grabs an outspoken guy to try and show him the error of his ways, holding the man by the collar and insisting that he is an American sweetheart and a lovely guy and that everyone loves him, it's hard not to think of the reaction that any famous person can have when the fame, and the fandom, starts to dwindle. It's hard not to think that The Bandit is voicing something every actor could be tempted to yell out at one point. In fact, it's hard not to think that The Bandit is just saying something that Burt Reynolds himself may have felt at one time or another.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into the whole thing. Everything else in the movie is just fantastic, simplistic entertainment. Jackie Gleason, once again, gets all of the best lines and moments as the exasperated sheriff. Reynolds, Reed and Field all get on well and are joined by Dom DeLuise, giving a fun performance. And there's a finale that puts The Bandit in the heart of a scenario he almost yearns for before showcasing some truly excellent stuntwork with cars and big trucks. Many of the bigger stunts are "gags" but they're still impressive and you get a real feeling of danger from this mad display of demented driving. It was great to watch when I was a young lad and, although I had my reservations, it's just as great to watch now.