Clint Eastwood's entry into the school of "good ol' boy" action comedies that Burt Reynolds popularized with Smokey and the Bandit is far from his best work but doesn't deserve the critical vilification it has received over the years. It's one of Eastwood's less consistent films from this era, primarily due to Jeremy Joe Kronsberg's script; the characters are fitfully amusing but the pacing is too slack and the storytelling too episodic to generate the electric charge of a top-notch slapstick comedy. It also gets bogged down in an array of subplots that are never integrated in a thoughtful or interesting way. Despite these key story flaws, Every Which Way But Loose remains an engaging affair for a few reasons. The first is its lack of pretension: director James Fargo keeps viewers from pondering the weak storyline by treating the film like a live-action cartoon and piling on car chases, bloodless bar brawls, and slapstick with vigor and gusto. The second is the skilled comic performances of the cast: Geoffrey Lewis makes a great deadpan comic foil for Eastwood, Sondra Locke brings the right intensity to her "lady of mystery" character, and Ruth Gordon is a total scene-stealer as the foul-mouthed, ill-tempered Ma. The final and most important reason is Clint Eastwood's performance: his work here reveals a skill for dry comedy that had only been touched on in his other films and his amiable performance reveals a star who is not only willing to act funny but is also capable of poking fun at his own "macho" image. In the end, Every Which Way But Loose is too much of a mixed bag to be given an unreserved recommendation, but it is well worth a look to fans of cartoonish comedies and anyone seriously interested in Eastwood's career.