In honor of Burt Reynolds (1936-2018), here is my review of “Smokey and the Bandit.”
“Baby Driver” was a first-rate driving movie in 2017, and it’s very rare to find a movie that doesn’t have the whole “Fast & Furious” cliches. And if those drivers raced on the moon, that’s where I draw the line. But way before those movies in 1977, there was an action comedy that originally planned to be a B-movie, and ended up becoming hit. “Smokey and the Bandit” takes risks and never makes stupid mistakes. That’s what I love about the movie. It’s Hell of a fun ride.
Trucker Bo Darville A.K.A. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) is asked by the wealthy Texan Big Enos Burdette (Paul McCormick) to transport 400 cases of Coors beer from Texas to Georgia in 28 hours. They say it can’t be done, but Bandit knows no-one has tried, so he grabs his friend Snowman (Jerry Reed), and they grab the beer.
They’re ahead of schedule, but then a runaway bride whom Bandit likes to call Frog (Sally Field) jumps in his car. They’re now pursued by the highway cop Sheriff Buford T. Justice A.K.A. Smokey (Jackie Gleeson) and his dimwitted groom son Junior (Mike Henry). Other cops are after Bandit’s hot car, too, and yet, both he and Snowman have a lot of friends to cover their asses. But most of all, Bandit can get out of any road block. Put the peddle to the meddle.
“Smokey and the Bandit” is fun when we see the hero get out of situations, and never gives in to the system. Given all the fast cars, high speed chases, and zany characters, this was one of the many inspirations for the television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” I’ve only seen a few episodes of the show, but more importantly, this movie is fearless.
I doubt they can make a remake (even if they made a few TV movies), but nobody could play Bandit better than Reynolds. He’s lovable, charming, smart, and flexible; and even his chemistry with Field keeps things in check. And you also get some fine supporting work from Reed in the ways he deals with dog Fred, and how he helps Bandit get out of jams. And Gleeson is comical as Smokey in the ways he rips his car apart state-through-state in order to catch Bandit. Sure some scenes go too far, but he’s much better than most determined comedy villains these days.
Speaking to today’s generation, if you loved “Baby Driver” or the “Fast & Furious” movies, then check out “Smokey and the Bandit.” It’s entertaining.