Stroker Ace is a 1983 American action comedy film, directed by Hal Needham. Burt Reynolds stars as the title character NASCAR driver Stroker Ace.
The film co-stars the late Jim Nabors, Loni Anderson (who would later marry Burt), Ned Beatty, Parker Stevenson, and Bubba Smith. The film featured appearances by many real-life NASCAR drivers including: Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Richard Petty, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Terry Labonte, Kyle Petty, Benny Parsons, Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd, Cale Yarborough, and announcers Ken Squier, David Hobbs, and Chris Economaki. The film was shot in three notable racing sites, which were Charlotte Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The opening song was performed by veteran country singer Charlie Daniels.
The film was an adaptation of the 1974 novel Stand On It, which was an autobiography of fictional driver "Stroker Ace." The novel's joint authors, William Neely and Robert K. Ottum, based the book on actual events from the racing world but with their protagonist as the subject. The film was distributed by Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers Pictures.
The film starts off in about the 1930s with Lugs Harvey and Stroker Ace as kids carrying a bicycle that Stroker had damaged while jumping a hill on the bicycle off-screen. Lugs' dad, who carries moonshine offers both of them a ride. Then the police chase after Lugs' dad for carrying and distributing the moonshine.
The film cuts to present day and it's revealed that Stroker is now a veteran NASCAR champion and is sponsored by Zenon Oil. He than pulls an ugly prank on the head of Zenon Oil by pouring wet cement in his car. The head of Zenon Oil gets so annoyed that he decides to pull the plug on being one of the sponsors. Later, Stroker races against his longtime rival Aubrey James. Unfortunately, Stroker loses the race and Aubrey taunts and brags to Stroker that he's number one and makes fun of him for losing.
After Zenon Oil pulls the plug on Stroker's sponsorship, a fried chicken mogul named Clyde Torkel decides to make his company become one of his sponsors and people laugh at the fact that Stroker is no longer a part of the Zenon Oil Company. A humiliated Stroker fumes about being made fun of and angrily demands for the paint scheme on his racecar to be taken off. But, since he's working for Clyde, he grumpily goes in the races again.
Lugs and Stroker devise various plans to pull the plug on Clyde Trokel. Stroker meets Pembrook, a Sunday school teacher and she helps him out in being a spokesman for Clyde Torkel's fried chicken.
After struggling so many times in the race pits, Stroker finally wins the championship against Aubrey James and decides that his hatred for Aubrey is finally over and Aubrey congratulates Stroker for winning the race, treats him with brotherly respect and says "You're number one." Stroker decides to pull the plug on his hatred for Aubrey as well. Then Clyde Torkel pulls the plug on Stroker's sponsorship of his fried chicken company and Stroker gets back support from his old sponsors. After that, Lugs defends Stroker by punching Clyde in the face. Stroker's friends and fans cheer on after winning the NASCAR championship. The film then ends with bloopers.
- Our main protagonist is rather stuck up and unlikable at first.
- Clyde Torkel is a poorly developed villain and comes off as laughable instead of convincing.
- Unfunny jokes.
- The story is weak.
- Plot holes (eg. Stroker having to dress up in a chicken costume to promote his product that sponsors him).
- Pointless supporting characters.
- Certain scenes drag on.
- Some of the dialogue is off-balance.
- Stupid acting.
- Poor writing.
- The opening theme song sung by Charlie Daniels is awesome.
- The rest of the film has a lot of exciting race car action sequences.
- Jim Nabors and Burt Reynolds have excellent chemistry with one another.
- Stroker has a change of heart near the end and Aubrey decides the hate-hate relationship is over and decides to treat Stoker with brotherly respect.
- It certainly exploits the NASCAR elements nicely: certain real-life NASCAR drivers, like Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Cale Yarborough, Kyle Petty among others, have cameos, as well as real-life broadcasters Ken Squier and Chris Economaki.
- The paint schemes of the race cars are well-done and awesome.
- The bloopers like almost any bloopers are somewhat amusing, despite the rest of the jokes being unfunny, including a cameo by Smokey and the Bandit co-star Jerry Reed.
- It was interesting seeing Burt Reynolds playing a NASCAR driver.
- Clyde Torkel's negative comeuppance was a well-deserved one.
The film currently holds a 20% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 2.3 out of 10. On the early At The Movies program, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert put Stroker Ace on the list of the Stinkers of 1983. Gene deemed Stroker Ace his worst film of 1983.
Stroker Ace opened at #8 on its opening weekend with a domestic gross of $4,668,135. The film would later make a total domestic gross of $13,000,000. The film's total worldwide box office gross is unavailable. However, in the U.S., the film grossed $13,000,000 against its $16.5 million budget making it a box office bomb.