Release Date: May 27th, 1977
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: James Lee Barrett, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel
Music by: Bill Justis, Jerry Reed
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Macon McCalman
Rastar, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes
“What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.” – Sheriff Buford T. Justice
Smokey and the Bandit is one of those pop culture things that was huge and often times talked about when I was a kid. Granted, I wasn’t born until the end of 1978 but this was a film that I couldn’t escape, as it spawned a few sequels and was so beloved that it was on television and VHS everywhere I looked. But justifiably so, because there is just something bad ass and cool about Burt Reynolds, especially with Jerry Reed as his partner and Jackie Gleason in hot pursuit. Not to mention the charming charisma of Sally Field.
While this is a massively cherished movie, I personally don’t see it as a classic worthy of the highest levels of esteem. Is it fun? You bet your ass. It is also hilarious, at times, and the characters are all pretty lovable. All that aside though, it’s not a great movie. Well, not great in the sense that it should be a true cinematic classic.
The action is better than decent but it isn’t anything exceptional. It really plays like an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard except it is a feature length picture. As a kid, I certainly enjoyed The Dukes of Hazzard a lot more but maybe that is because I had the car, the poster and it was on television just about every single day. Sure, that television series was obviously inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and a whole slew of cowboy car and trucker movies but it had a bigger impact on me and I certainly feel more nostalgic for it than Smokey.
Burt Reynolds is still pretty damn enjoyable in anything but therein lies the problem. Had this not been a vehicle for Reynolds, it probably would have just come and went and not reached the pop culture heights that it did. Take out Jackie Gleason and you’re not left with much other than a run of the mill car stunt movie.
This is a film that is truly carried by its stars. While I would probably still find enjoyment with it had someone else played the Bandit, I doubt that the general public would have gotten behind it like they did.
The direction isn’t great and the editing is choppy in some parts and actually has a lot of mistakes, especially in regards to where vehicles are in relation to each other from cut to cut. Also, Coors is a pretty shitty beer but the microbrewery revolution hadn’t really kicked off in 1977 and rednecks today still drink mass produced swill.
While it may sound like I am being hard on this film, I’m just putting the facts out there, as I see them. I really like Smokey and the Bandit but not in the same vein as its hardcore fans. But that’s okay. Everyone has their cup of tea and while this is a very good cup, it isn’t a great cup.