Eastwood report: Any Which Way You Can

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Pauline Kael, in her 1974 review of The Godfather Part II, remarked that the only sequels that are better than the originals are Huckleberry Finn and the New Testament. Ms. Kael, in her youthful ignorance, had of course not yet seen Any Which Way You Can, the sequel to Every Which Way But Loose that towers above its predecessor as Everest towers over Kilimanjaro.

Philo Beddoe is back, because the audience demanded him. He’s no longer a short fuse and dumb as a post, instead he’s a kindly semi-retired gent who lives in a shed with his pet orangutan Clyde. He seems much happier in his ambling-around-town life than previously, and instead of seeming stupid he seems like a zen master, a man without ambition content to dismantle automobiles for his dim-bulb pal Orville, beat up the occasional guy for money, and laze about, gazing at all the toil and madness that swirls around him, content that somehow everything will work out okay.

The new Philo is clearly an improvement, not just to me but to all the other characters in the movie. Instead of being an inward misfit detested by everyone, Philo is now beloved by all and a cherished member of the community. He’s so beloved, his orangutan gets to hang out at the local country bar on his own,and woe betide the customer who complains. Philo is now so magnetic, Lynn, the two-bit chippie who bilked him for thousands in Every Which, now comes crawling back to him for forgiveness, which he easily grants. Obviously, the change in Philo is due to the unexpected massive success of Every Which: Eastwood has decided, well, if people like this guy, well then, let’s make him likable. The change radiates through the rest of the movie: nearly all the characters from the previous movie are back, but what was grating is now charming, what was shrill is now funny, and what was bleak is now honest.

Simply put, Any Which is the movie I thought Every Which was going to be: a genial, goofy, generous, warm-hearted hick comedy about taking life as it comes, the joys of slacking off and a wry reckoning with the diminishing returns of middle age. I actually laughed out loud several times during the movie, an extreme rarity when I watch a movie alone in the dark confines of my office. The script is freakin’ Some Like it Hot compared to Every Which Way But Loose, a marvel of clockwork precision and dovetail-joint plotting. The narrative no longer requires characters to haphazardly run into each other to keep the story moving and the second act, while still slack, is sweet instead of crass and unrushed instead of meandering. The physical comedy, which I found cringe-inducing in the earlier movie, is handled with comparative fluid grace and witty invention. The photography is substantially better, much closer to reflecting the love of light and faces I associate with Eastwood, and while the acting is still broad, it’s all of a piece now, and gets a much better comic head of steam going. I sense a much surer hand at the tiller of Any Which, and as the movie’s assemblage of wacky characters all make their way toward the third-act showdown between Philo and another fighter named Wilson, I actually found myself experiencing something like suspense and jollity.

Clyde, of course, is given much more to do. He is given supernatural strength and a romantic agenda, and the movie stops dead at the mid-point for an eight-way sexual encounter between Clyde, his date, Philo and Lynn, a pair of tourists from Iowa and a motel manager and Orville’s mother.


10 Responses to “Eastwood report: Any Which Way You Can”
  1. curt_holman says:

    “when I watch a movie alone in the dark confines of my office.”

    Watching Any Which Way You Can while alone in the dark confines of your office must say something, but I wouldn’t venture to guess what it is.

  2. Clyde didn’t seem to get a lot of work after this movie.

    I wonder why …

    • Todd says:

      Of course, “Clyde” is in fact played by two orangutans — the first one was beaten to death by his trainer after Every Which wrapped. Clyde’s is a sad story.

      • “the first one was beaten to death by his trainer after Every Which wrapped”

        That’s too bad I was really looking forward to his episode of Inside the Actors Studio, but I guess I’ll have to settle for his True Hollywood Story…damn shame

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pretty interesting, I had the opposite reaction … opposite being that I liked the first one more than the second … but I want to find a time to rewatch both and see if I feel the same, since it’s been so long since I’ve seen them.

    Do you think you’d have a different reaction to the first now that you’ve seen the second?

    Note, Philo’s opponent was played by biker movie great William Smith, star of many a B and Z movie … he was Lee’s original choice for Roper in ENTER THE DRAGON, and later did what I thought was a pretty cool post-apocalyse movie with Yul Brynner called THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, a low budget (except for Yul, of course) fun trashy film.

    But obviously I’ve digressed.

    Joshua James

    • Todd says:

      I don’t think either of them are particularly great movies, but there are some bare-bones “don’t-do-that” qualities to the first movie that are greatly improved upon in the second — things relating to plotting, pacing, direction, editing. I spent too much of the first one thinking “Where the hell is this going?” and thinking “Is it too much to ask for a plot?” while the second seemed to have a much firmer hand on the tiller.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Best fight scene of all time

    Although it’s less of a “scene” and more of a “final act.” Makes the one in They Live look like a slapfight in the girls’ locker room.

  5. teamwak says:

    If I rememeber, there is a perfect Leone parody with the Hells Angels and Clint facing off alá Few Dollars More, complete with music cue. I think the Bikers were my favourite parts of both movies.