The Bandit ★★★

This BTS doc about the making of Smokey and the Bandit panders pretty hard to what seems like the film's ideal audience of would-be good ol' boys. Most interview subjects* seem to play along in that vein, too (take a shot every time one of them defensively insists that stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham was great, even if he wasn't the sharpest pencil in the pack). That style of pandering necessarily weakens the film's most interesting--and barely disguised--main argument: Needham and star Burt Reynolds had a closer-than-friends kinda relationship. To the filmmakers' credit, they include a clip of Reynolds admitting that if Needham was a man, he'd make one hell of a romantic partner. And, soon after that, we see the a newspaper ad Reynolds placed just to congratulate Needham and tell him "I love you." That's not nothin', especially when your audience is a bunch of "No Homo"-spouting meatheads.

Also: lots of great archival footage** and a couple of inspired transitions (I love the hard cut from a photo of Needham with a wheelbarrow full of cash to his son saying "At this point, my dad decided to move out of Burt Reynolds's house.").

I just wish they continued to develop the notion that Reynolds wanted to be more like Needham. They get pretty close in the scene where Reynolds, speaking in an old promo interview, talks lovingly about the Bandit--and it's clear that he's really talking about Needham. More of this, please (think The Talented Mr. Reynolds).

Kicking myself for not going to see Needham talk at 92YTribeca years ago. But at least I have his autobiography to look forward to.

*Except Paul Williams, who is, miraculously, always his own neurotic self
**I need that Stuntman action figure and playset, please