W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence and language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Conny Van Dyke, Jerry Reed, Art Carney, Ned Beatty, James Hampton, Don Williams, Rick Hurt, Furry Lewis, Mel Tillis, Polly Holliday, Brad Dourif (cameo)
Director: John G. Avildsen
Screenplay: Thomas Rickman
Review published October 27, 2005
Set in the mid-1950s, Burt Reynolds (The Longest Yard, Fuzz) stars as W.W. Bright, a con man and petty thief that is wanted in many Southern states for heisting any S.O.S. gas stations he can find. To escape the cops, he masquerades as the manager of a struggling country-western band called the Dixie Dancekings, who are so desperate for a gig that they become willing accomplices to his misdeeds. Meanwhile, the brimstone-chucking justice-bringer named Deacon Gore (Carney, The Late Show) is sent to bring down bright before he commits any more acts of thievery on the company he feels treated him poorly.
Reynolds' fans should enjoy this pre-Smokey and the Bandit vehicle that helped solidify the persona and Southern folk hero image that he would make famous just a couple of years later. While not as good or as popular as Smokey, there is the same affable charm, full of likeable Good Ole Boys and plenty of fistfights occurring in between scenes of vehicular carnage.
It's not too deep or substantive, but as directed by John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid, Rocky), this is a pleasant little road picture that features many fine elements, from the eccentric characterizations, tongue-in-cheek situations, and some pretty good country, blues and rock-n-roll music. Not spectacular by any means, it does have a quirky charm that just might win you over in due course.
Recommended for fans of Burt, and especially as a precursor to the Southern bandit rage that would dominate the late 1970s (W.W.'s car even plays "Dixie", Dukes of Hazzard-style). Infectious, nostalgic fun.
©2005 Vince Leo