Smokey and the Bandit (1977)


 "Time to take to the road, for a quiet little drive in the country...or not"

   Do you like cars? Do you like Burt Reynolds? Do you like chase scenes, trucker lingo, and cops that aren't very good at their job? Well, then you are in for the ultimate movie to suit your tastes! If you don't like any of those things, I guess you might not be as enthused about this movie as the others, but you might want to pick up on the finer points before casting final judgement. 

   Smokey and the Bandit  is a straightforward story about a legendary truck runner who has a penchant for seeking thrills. Securing a job from some rather odd characters (one Big Enos (Pat McCormick) and his son), Bandit (Burt Reynolds) gets his buddy and "co-worker" Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive down to Texas and bring a load of beer up to Enos in Atlanta in a mere 28 hours. This has been deemed impossible, as not only does the time limit mean they are gonna have to work fast, but the load of beer also means that it is technically illegal. The trip down is easy, but the trip back starts to get hairy quick!

   Bandit picks up a runaway bride named Carrie (Sally Field) as they are leaving Texas, which in turn earns him the pursuit of the would-be groom's father, one Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). What ensues is multiple car chases, fancy driving, and an intense finish all the way back to Atlanta. Now, there are a lot of other characters in here, but the aforementioned ones happen to be the biggest players - in fact, most of the movie is between Bandit, Snowman (Cledus), and Frog (Carrie), and whichever "throw away" character they are interacting with at the time.

   Plot out of the way, and that being said, the other characters are pretty interesting from time to time in the sense that each seems to have a distinct personality, regardless of how shallow that might be. An example of this can be found in many of the supporting cast to Bandit, who all have their own callsigns and attitudes, from the funeral procession "grave robber" to the ladies of a more "erotic" persuasion. The cops, on the other hand, feel to be the real fodder of the film, being as bumbling as possible (often times being more danger to themselves than to Bandit) but in turn giving the viewer a very Dukes of Hazzard  amount of entertainment.

"...entertainment is what this film is all about..."

    And of course, entertainment is what this film is all about at face value. Daring car acrobatics and chases are only accentuated by the whimsical failures of the cops and the show-off attitude of Bandit. It's not the most deep as far as characters go by any means, although in particular the 70's bleeds out of Sheriff Justice, who can be spotted making an off-hand pass at racism and sexism at the time (such as his comment about punching his wife in the mouth after being positive there is no way his son could possible be his son). Some folks might find this offensive, even though I'd like to imagine that in this day and age we have gotten over such petty little things (I openly admit that I laughed at the just mentioned comment, even though I don't condone spousal or women beatings) especially within the context of such a humor-oriented flick.

   That humor, by the way, should appeal to anyone to some degree as what many would call "redneck." Another way of putting it is that you don't need the most eloquent sense of humor in order to appreciate the jokes (for instance, bathroom jokes). It can come off as a bit dry, but considering my own somewhat pun-ny nature, I still got a blast out of it, laughing more at this then a lot of the more recent comedy films I've seen. It helps that the audio still comes through well enough for these to be delivered without any real interference, even with the car chases and crashes going on.

   Speaking of audio, to paraphrase another film, this movie has both kinds of music, Country and Western!  Oddly enough, those said country western songs are more relevant to the movie than the entire soundtracks of other movies - literally containing lyrics that essentially tell you the legend that is the character Bandit. To that extent, the theme song could almost be pulled off as a radio show! Actors have a fun time handling accents (I laughed at the random oriental trucker plowing through a cop car's door after yelling "Banzai!") and did a pretty good job pulling off their lines, considering that the script felt a bit bland at times. Effect works, such as the sounds of cars, squealing tires, and smashing metal, are all pulled off wonderfully.

"The costumes do a better job of helping pull off characterization..."

   You may notice I haven't talked much about the setting yet. The reason for this, mostly, is that the movie is predominantly cars and roadways, with generic villages being passed through when the main roadways necessitate it. Occasionally, you are treated to a more forested patch of back roads or a river to jump, but for the most part we aren't talking anything fancy (you know how I feel about "modern" movies in this respect, so I shouldn't have to explain about it). The costumes do a better job of helping pull off characterization, and the cars themselves often feel less like a set piece and more like a character containing characters, which is handy considering the potential same-ness of the road backdrop.

   If you are still sticking around, I enjoyed watching this movie. If you are a fan of the Duke boys and their escapades, or even the cop-chase scenes from The Blues Brothers,  then you will most likely love this movie. In my typical fashion, I would say it's worth watching once if any aspect sounds remotely appealing, or even if you like the trailer. The humor might not be for everyone, and it does have quite a bit of light-grade swearing (this is a time before dropping 'f bombs' was really acceptable on the cinema circuit), but without a doubt I feel most people should find this an entertaining use of the 90 some-odd minutes runtime. 

 Smokey and the Bandit on IMDB

Smokey and the Bandit
Starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry