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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Other Summer Movies of the '80s: Smokey and the Bandit II

Released: August 15th, 1980

Burt Reynolds: Bandit

Sally Field: Carrie

Jackie Gleason: Sheriff Buford Justice

Jerry Reed: Cledus "Snowman" Snow

Screenplay by Jerry Belson and Brock Yates

Directed by Hal Needham

Rated PG

The summer of 1980 brought the most anticipated movie sequel since the second Bowery Boys picture, probably. The first film had been an unexpected blockbuster that captured the imagination of cinema fans and set a standard for other films to come. Fans would state the first was a cultural touchstone and a seminal moment in their young movie-going life. Surely, the sequel would bring even more fan fare. I'm talking, of course, about Smokey and the Bandit II.

I saw the original Smokey and the Bandit at least three times in the summer of 1977 and it has remained a favorite. The car chases are fun, sure, but the film's anarchic spirit filled me with such joy. Still does. Jackie Gleason's apoplectic performance as Sheriff Buford T. Justice is one of cinema's great comedic creations. There is not a serious bone in this movie's body. So, the anticipation of the sequel overwhelmed me. Yes, I saw The Empire Strikes Back and loved it, but Smokey and the Bandit II was my most anticipated film that summer and I waited all season to see it. I loved sci-fi, but comedy was in my soul.

The summer was winding down and an eighth grade school year I did not look forward to loomed. Training camp for 8th grade football had ended and now we were in daily practice. It was my first (and eventually only) foray into organized tackle football, which seemed like a good idea at the time. A few weeks earlier, my baseball team played for the league championship. I struck out with the bases loaded, winning run at second. A fine moment that still stuck with me. A matinee of Smokey and the Bandit II seemed just the perfect way to end the summer of 1980.

I was mistaken.

The movie was fine, I guess. I laughed, which was the goal. Jackie Gleason delivered, as always. I had a greater understanding and appreciation for the Big Enos/Little Enos joke. Now, that I'm older I have an even deeper appreciation for it. The sequel didn't pack the same punch as the first one. It was muted somehow. A couple of fun set pieces made me grin, like the game of chicken between the truckers and the cops, but the joyous chaos of the first movie was missing from the second. Once again I found myself leaving theater wanting something more. The Empire Strikes Back and Airplane! were clearly the best movies I had seen that summer and I was still too young to regale in the likes of The Blues Brothers and Caddyshack, though I would soon fall in love with those movies thanks to HBO and VHS tapes.

The summer of 1980 was transitional. People were still cleaning up from the Mt. St. Helens eruption. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were duking it out to become president. CNN launched. Post-it Notes were now available. Crazy times. I was trying to figure out who I was. Everyone seemed to be changing and I was stuck.

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