If you ever wanted to see what The Fast and the Furious would look like in the 1970’s, look not further than this 1977 feature, Smokey and the Bandit. The movie is filled to the rim with cars, more cars, and even more cars. The movie also displays a good amount of vehicle destruction, which is common in the forementioned Fast and Furious series. The cars were quite impressive to look at, even though I am not a big fan of car watching. If it has an engine and a steering wheel, that is okay by me. But seeing these 1970’s models was actually pretty cool. The main car was a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, and that is my kind of ride. So if you’re into cars, then this wouldn’t be a bad film to check out. When these cars are put into action….look out!
I desperately wanted to hate this movie. I refused to watch the movie for years because it did not seem so appealing. But my love for the Fast and Furious franchise got me curious to check this film out. Color me surprised when the credits rolled onscreen, because I was pleasantly surprised. I did not expect to be thoroughly entertained the entire film. From start to finish, I was involved with the action, and most importantly the characters. My two favorite characters were the main character named Bandit and the sheriff chasing after him, Buford T. Justice. I wouldn’t call these characters likable, but definitely entertaining.
Admittedly, the story is very silly. But then even silly stories can work sometimes if you have the right actors and the right material. Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and Cledus (Jerry Reed) are two truck drivers who decide to take a dare from these bigshot rich men. The dare consists of picking up beer from Texas and transporting it to Georgia. After they pick up the beer, Bandit decides to pick up a runaway bride named Carrie (Sally Field). Her husband-to-be’s father happens to be the Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). When Justice realizes what is going on, they begin a pursuit of Bandit, his new lady, and his beer. Sounds silly, right? But my gosh, I was incredibly entertained. I also learned a fact, believe it or not, from this plotline. The famed Coors beer brand was actually illegal east of the Mississippi River during this time. So even high-profile people such as Dwight Eisenhower or Gerald Ford had to smuggle the beer from the West.
The characters helped elevate the mediocre, silly story into something that was entertaining. At the time, Burt Reynolds was a movie superstar. I was impressed at his tough-guy performance in the 1972 drama, Deliverance. He brings more of that persona into this role, but with a sense of humor. His character was actually funny at times in the midst of the action that is occurring. He is also portrayed at times as a drunk and a womanizer, but compared to people he is dealing with, I’d consider Bandit a hero. I also loved the character of Sheriff Buford T. Justice. His high-speed pursuit ended up in failure most often, but one thing his character is known for is his foul mouth. (He actually gave credence to the term “sumbitch”) I also thought Sally Field turned in a strong performance as Carrie. This is one of her early roles, and she gained instant fame because of this role.
Smokey and the Bandit turned out to be a much better film than I could have ever anticipated. It’s not an all-time favorite, but it is a solid, serviceable action film. Watching Bandit escape dozens of cops was entertaining for me. There are plenty of car chases, cool stunts, and enough characterization to give any action junkie a rush of adrenaline. There is also a good sense of humor. I particularly loved the scenes between Cledus and his dog. They were funny, but it helps there was a cute dog. I would hesitate to call the movie a classic as some people do. This movie may be silly and over-the-top at certain points, but I was incredibly entertained.
My Grade: B+