Smokey and the Bandit
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
As I sit typing reviews, I hear, “Oh my God! I haven’t seen this in years.” I turn to find Smokey and the Bandit on one of the movie channels. I respond that a co-worker is always quoting the movie and is amazed to discover that I have never seen it. This elicits a “You’ve never seen this film! Okay, we have to watch this, because you don’t know what you are missing!” I have always been fond of the Bandit’s Trans Am, but never had the desire to see the film. They were right – I didn’t know what I was missing.
In Smokey and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds is Bo Darville, AKA: Bandit. While at a truck rodeo in Atlanta, wealthy Texan Big Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick) and his son Little Enos (Paul Williams) offer Bandit $80,000 to haul four hundred cases of Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta in 28 hours. At the time, considered one of the best beers in the United States, Coors could not be sold legally east of the Mississippi. Never one to back down from a challenge, Bandit enlists best friend and partner Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) to haul the goods while Bandit drives a black Trans Am in an effort to divert law enforcement attention from the truck and its illegal cargo.
Along the way, Bandit picks up a woman whose car has broken down on the side of the road. Carrie (Sally Field) turns out to be a runaway bride. Her fiancé? Junior Justice (Mike Henry), son of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), a career officer whose pride won’t allow Carrie or the Bandit to rob him of the wedding he arranged. Justice chases Bandit all the way to Georgia, never realizing that Bandit’s escapades are all a diversion for the more illegal act of trafficking Coors beer from Texas to Georgia.
Now I understand the reason folks have been telling me I have to see this 1977 film. The movie is downright hysterical and it’s all because of Jackie Gleason. He steals the film with his performance as the prejudiced, bad-mouthed, belligerent, career law enforcement agent with a skewed sense of justice. He has some of the best lines in the film:
To his son: "There’s no way, NO way that you came from MY loins. Soon as I get home, first thing I’m gonna do is punch yo mama in the mouth!"
"What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law."
To Sheriff Branford who happens to be an African American: “For some reason or another, you sounded a little…taller on the radio."
"Nobody, and I mean NOBODY makes Sheriff Buford T. Justice look like a possum’s pecker!"
This is a man you want to hate, but the mishaps and his delivery are simply hysterical as his car and his patience come to pieces chasing his lost future sitting in a criminal’s speed demon of a car. Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jerry Reed play off of one another well and Fred the Dog is adorable, but Jackie steals the show.
I loved the one-liners and hilarious exploits. I also loved the CB jargon. Being a child of the…well, that generation…I know my CB jargon. It was big when I was a kid and my dad never went anywhere without one. Me and my uncle would mess with CBs as kids and knew all of the lingo – smokey for police, bear in the grass for a cop concealed along the road, bear with his ears on, etc. It was great to hear all this stuff again. And the cars – oh man, did this movie bring me back, watching my dream car – a black Trans Am with T-tops and a phoenix on the hood – in addition to Pontiac LeMans, Oldsmobiles, Cadillac Eldorados, old motorcycles and more. The music was also great, featuring songs by Jerry Reed himself, Bill Justis, Dick Feller and more.
Sure, Smokey and the Bandit contains a lot of questionable speech – cursing, derogatory remarks, etc., but one must remember how long ago this was filmed. That being said, I found myself constantly laughing at the exploits of the characters, reminiscing about my CB past and having a whole lot of fun wondering if Bandit and Snow would actually get that Coors to its final destination. What a great movie! I’ll never doubt my friends again!