Friday Film Review: Smokey and the Bandit
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Genre: Comedy, Action, Crime, Romance
“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.