Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Film Review: Smokey and the Bandit

Smokey and the BanditSmokey and the Bandit (1977)
Genre: Comedy, Action, Crime, Romance
Grade: B

“What we have here is a complete lack of respect for the law.” Sheriff Buford T. Justice

I’m going to date myself by admitting that the first time I saw this movie was during its initial release in theaters. Some school friends and I went to it and loved it. But then we were young so our tastes weren’t all that sophisticated yet. I used to watch it every time I caught it on TV and decided last year to add it to my DVD collection.

The plot is simple. Bo (Burt Reynolds), aka the Bandit, and Cledus (Jerry Reed) have accepted a challenge from Big and Little Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams) to drive from Atlanta, GA to Texarkana, TX then pick up 400 cases of Coors beer and drive it back to Atlanta in 28 hours. On the way back, Bandit picks up a runaway bride (Sally Field) from the side of the road after her car breaks down. From that point on, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) is hot on their tail since the wedding Carrie ran out on was to his son Junior (Mike Henry) and no one runs out on Sheriff Buford T. Justice.

With Justice leading the pack, the law enforcement agencies of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia chase after the Bandit, Carrie and Cledus as they race to deliver the beer before the deadline.

Why all the fuss for Coors beer? Well, let me tell all you youngsters who might not know that in those days, back in the Dark Ages, it was illegal to transport Coors beer east of the Mississippi River. That, my friends, was bootlegging. Now normally the law wouldn’t go after anyone who was only bringing a case or two across the River but 400 cases would have been another matter.

Is this movie dated? Hell yes. Check out the bell bottom jeans Reynolds wears along with the hot pants on some of the female characters. CB lingo was king then so if you don’t know your 10-4 from your back door, check out the bonus features of the DVD.

Burt Reynolds was at the height of his cheeky charm then (look for the sequence when he grins at the camera and breaks the fourth wall), Sally Field was as cute as a bug’s ear and Jackie Gleason’s Texas Sheriff persona has set the stage for this type of role to this day. Burt had some great cheesy lines but Gleason’s often improvised dialogue is the heart of the movie’s comedy. The raport between Burt and Jerry Reed is lovely to watch as well. Great chemistry between those two.

The last 30 minutes or so is almost nonstop car chases and stunt work – redneck heaven filled with good ol’ boys. The soundtrack is catchy country, folk and bluegrass music including Jerry Reed’s classic “East Bound and Down” which I find myself singing for days each time I watch the movie.

Hey, great film making this ain’t but it was the second highest grossing movie only to “Star Wars” for the year so there were a whole lot of us enjoying it in the theaters. It’s a fun film that is filled with actors who appear to be having a ball doing the work and which always takes me back to a simpler time in my life before mortgages, time cards and being a grown up. So kick back and enjoy the ride.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

23 Comments

  1. Angie
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 04:30:53

    Now this was a great movie. :D My family hardly ever went to movies in theaters, but when it came on the G Channel (the only dedicated movie channel our cable company offered, in the early days of cable — in fact it was the only non-broadcast channel offered period) I watched it… I don’t remember exactly, but pretty close to all seven times it showed. And I’ve seen it a few times since, on cable or on video or whatever. It’s cheesy, yes, but it’s great fun.

    I was a teenager then and the whole putting-on-over-on-the-cops thing was awesome. “Lack of respect for the law” was exactly what it was about. Watching them foil the sherif with things like the rocking chair maneuver, or all the hot rodders jamming up the two-lane road so the sheriff couldn’t pass — having dozens or hundreds of strangers just automatically jump in to aid and abet these folks fleeing from the law? That was sort of the ultimate in fun, you know?

    Little things like Snowman and Fred when Fred wants to sniff and pee and Snowman wants to get going. Introducing Carrie to the dog (“Fred, Frog. Frog, Fred.) And the meeting between Bandit and the Sheriff at that one stop, when the Sheriff didn’t know who he was ’cause he’d only heard him on the radio, but never seen him? Hee!

    Definitely worth a rental. :D

    Angie

  2. Maddie
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 04:38:20

    I love this movie and even though it is dated, I find myself laughing my head off, just like The Blues Brothers another chase movie, no matter how many times you watch it, you find yourself laughing at the jokes, sight gags and everything in the movie.

    I guess that’s why they called them “classics”.

  3. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 05:00:35

    @Angie: One of the DVD bonus features has the producer talking about how stunned he was when the film opened big in New York state. They had expected it to play well in the South but had no idea it would be so universally loved throughout the country.

  4. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 05:02:45

    @Maddie: LOL, yes it is a classic. I just watched it the other day to see if I wanted to add anything to my review and still laughed at all the same places.

  5. Sandy James
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:09:19

    What a blast from the past! Interesting choice, Jayne! Thanks for the Friday smile. :)

  6. Jaci Burton
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:27:52

    Not only did I see it in the movie theaters (yes, I’m dating myself here too). I saw it more than once at the movie theater because I loved it that much.

    I was channel surfing the other day and it was on television and I made my husband suffer through watching it again. And I still laughed at all the corny jokes. And I still sighed when Bandit kissed Frog. This movie never gets old. Heh.

  7. Maddie
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:37:13

    Every Saturday night on PBS, where I live they have a classic movie, a short film and a Indie movie, so far I’ve watched The Thin Man, Scarlet Street, My Man Godfrey, A Night At The Opera, all brilliant movies by the way.

    I love how PBS has introduced me to movies that I might have passed on, by the way my all time favorite that I caught on PBS was The Asphalt Jungle, that is when I made it a point to check and see what was playing every weekend.

  8. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:39:02

    @Sandy James: Well…you know. A little bromance. A little road romance. A lot of CB lingo….

  9. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:47:24

    @Jaci Burton: I just love her handle. I’m not going to ask how many times you saw it!

  10. Karen Erickson
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 09:56:04

    Ah I loved this movie so much! I saw it first on Showtime (waaaay back in the day) and then went to the movie theater on opening night for the second one. The line wound around the building. I was separated from my parents and sat with my uncle, the theater was so crowded. I just totally dated myself.

    And now I want to watch it again – it’s been years.

    Great review Jayne!

  11. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 11:14:02

    @Karen Erickson: I’ve never watched either of the sequels. Are they worth it?

  12. Lori
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 12:08:58

    Oh thanks for reminding me of this wonderful film. I loved it way back when. Now it demands another watch.

    Those were the good old days…

  13. Karen Erickson
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 13:22:34

    @Jayne:

    You know, it’s been so long I can hardly remember the second one. Of course it wasn’t as good as the first but I remember thinking it was pretty funny. The third one? I never saw it.

    I say it can’t hurt to try at least the second one…

  14. CourtneyLee
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 16:49:24

    LOVE this movie! I wasn’t even born when it was released and I still love it. My favorite is all the handles: Snowman, Frog, Graverobber, Foxy Lady, the Good Witch of the North, etc.

    When the hearse drivers block Sheriff Justice with a funeral procession? AWEWSOME.

  15. Cherrie Lynn
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 23:02:52

    Oh, when I was a kid my mother bought a Trans Am because of this movie. It was white with a red bird on the hood and it was SWEET. I grew up watching this. Still love it to this day.

    I also remember our family road trips from Texas to Florida, when it never failed someone in our little caravan would say over the CB (yes, we had ‘em) “East bound and down!” Good times.

  16. Jayne
    Jul 03, 2010 @ 03:44:02

    @CourtneyLee:

    Junior: [waiting for the "funeral procession] Daddy, he had a lot of friends, didn’t he?
    Buford T. Justice: If they’d a cremated the sum-bitch. I could be kickin’ that Mr. Bandit’s ass around the moon by now.

    Totally agree. Awesome scene.

  17. Jayne
    Jul 03, 2010 @ 03:49:01

    @Cherrie Lynn: LOL, my brother in law has a red Trans Am. I’ve never asked him if it’s because he likes this movie. I’m not sure if this is true or not but here’s some data from the IMDB:

    This movie made the Pontiac Trans Am a superstar. Trans Am sales jumped from 68,745 in 1977 to 93,341 in 1978. And just one year later that number swelled to 117,108 units sold.

  18. Angelia Sparrow
    Jul 03, 2010 @ 03:52:40

    I am a truck driver. And I am embarassed to say I hadn’t actually seen this until last year.

    It was hilarious. Nobody ever did CB talk quite like Jerry Reed, although a lot of people tried. (almost everyone gets more southern on the CB) I love the bit where the bikers beat up the Snowman. “Heh, can’t fight, can he?” And the bartender syas “He can’t drive either. He just backed over a bunch of motorcycles.”

    Great movie. Great snapshot of America in a place and time.

    And now it’s time for me to back on out of here and put MY ten in the wind. Catch ya on the flipflop.

  19. Angie
    Jul 03, 2010 @ 04:08:46

    @Angelia Sparrow:

    I love the bit where the bikers beat up the Snowman. “Heh, can’t fight, can he?” And the bartender syas “He can’t drive either. He just backed over a bunch of motorcycles.”

    Yes! ROFL! That was an awesome scene. :D

    Angie

  20. Anon76
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 12:24:27

    I lubs this movie. Cheesy, yes, as all get out, but the character chemistry (all characters) is AMAZING.

    People noting their favorite scenes brought them back to memory and made me grin.

    (wandering off as I hum the tune, Eastbound and Down)

  21. Anon76
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 12:25:49

    Oh, and I assume this movie sparked the idea for Dukes of Hazard

  22. Marg
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 00:28:44

    I watched this movie a couple of months ago for the first time in years and really enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

    I then started to watch the sequel, and turned it off after about 10 minutes in because it really was a turkey!

  23. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 03:41:18

    @Marg: After I posted this review, I went looking for opinions on the sequels. Too many people said that the characters changed a lot and that most of what made the first movie so fun is gone. I think I’ll skip them and just keeping enjoying the first movie.

%d bloggers like this: