a critiQal film review Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Plot: Big Enos (McCormick) wants to drink Coors at a truck show, but in 1977 it was illegal to sell Coors east of the Mississippi River without a permit. Truck driver Bo "Bandit" Darville (Reynolds) agrees to pick up the beer in Texas and drive it to Georgia within 28 hours. When Bo picks up hitchhiker Carrie (Field), he attracts the attention of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Gleason). Angry that Carrie will not marry his son, Justice embarks on a high-speed chase after Bandit.

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  • ...Reynolds is obviously having fun in this nostalgic comedy romp - and viewers will find that fun infectious.

With the recent passing of Burt Reynolds, it seemed fitting to review one of his classic films for this #TBT Review. And, of course, we just had to check out a film I’d never gotten around to seeing: Smokey and the Bandit.

But, would this classic have aged well? Or is Smokey and the Bandit gone past its expiration date?

Burt Reynolds stars as the Bandit, and brings an old school charm with him to Smokey and the Bandit. With his sly chuckle and cool-under-pressure attitude, its obvious why he has left a memorable impression on moviegoers over the years. As the Bandit, he gets to be wild and carefree, even while keeping an easy smile and a ready laugh. While he did go for more serious roles over the years, he seems at home in this type of comedy, and viewers should appreciate his performance even now.

Sally Field plays Carrie in Smokey and the Bandit. A flighty gal who falls for the bad boy behind the wheel, it’s obvious there’s an attraction between her and Burt. It’s not hard to guess they were dating at the time, as the eyes they make at each other speak volumes. They seem an odd duo at first, but they work well together, and with their chemistry already cranked up off-screen, that translates well to their antics on-screen.

Jackie Gleason gets to play the ornery cuss in yet another role in Smokey and the Bandit. His classic persona from “The Honeymooners” (TV) transfers easily to the often rude and uncouth Sheriff, and viewers can easily see him in the role.

The plot, of course, is kinda silly. Obviously, it’s just a way to set up for all of the fast drivin’ chase sequences throughout Smokey and the Bandit. But, in comedies like this one, that’s really all it needs to do. It sets the scene for the tomfoolery to begin, and lets the comedic moments happen along the way.

And, sure, it’s a bit hokey, but Smokey and the Bandit is still a lot of fun. It may seem like an extended episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard” (TV), but Burt’s easygoing smile and Field’s goo-goo eyes help make the film flow smoothly and almost effortlessly. It gets dragged down a bit with an impromptu sex sequence (not shown but implied), but still, there’s just something infectious about the fun Reynolds and Field seem to be having. Viewers will want to stick around to see it through to the end. When a sequel is implied, viewers will likely want to see that as well, just for more of this good old-time fun.

Smokey and the Bandit, like good TV shows of the same era, combines a bit of nostalgia with silly cops and the lead actors mixing chemistry and laughs. It’s a good time, if a bit more cheesy than it used to be.

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