Picks and Pans Review: Stroker Ace

updated 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There are times when Burt Reynolds seems like the Cary Grant of the '80s. Then there are times, such as in this movie, when he seems like the Andy Devine of the '80s. This is yet another automobile-oriented comedy directed by Hal (Smokey and the Bandit) Needham, who is wonderful with stunts, chases and races but breaks down when it comes to things that don't have pistons and cylinders, such as actors or actresses. Reynolds plays a stock car driver who is competing under the sponsorship of a ruthless fast-food chicken merchant played by Ned Beatty. To say Reynolds takes on his role halfheartedly is to exaggerate his apparent interest; he doesn't throw away his lines so much as he seems to let them dribble out. Jim Nabors, as Reynolds' ace mechanic, lapses back into his Gomer Pyle persona, rolling his eyes two or three hundred times. If the constant stock shots of racing crowds haven't made clear how desperate the situation is, the closing credits do—they're accompanied by a series of outtakes, which are even less interesting than the film itself. Stroker has a couple of redeeming features, however. One is Beatty, who blusters, fumes, huffs and puffs enough to make his character amusing. He is a first-class actor. The other is Loni Anderson of WKRP in Cincinnati, playing her first feature role. She is marvelously fresh and attractive, and the big screen makes the most of her appealing qualities. (PG)

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