Plot: Bandit (Burt Reynolds) has earned his reputation as one of the best in his field, a skilled driver who not only knows how to drive fast, but how to evade the police even in the most hopeless of situations. As good as he is, even Bandit has never faced the kind of challenge set before him, as he needs to travel to Texas to load up hundreds of cases of beer, then return to Georgia to deliver the payload, all within 28 hours. This seems imposing under any conditions, but the law has been relentless tracking bootleggers, so it is considered impossible to pull off. But Bandit plans to prove his skills in grand fashion, so he runs blocker for Snowman (Jerry Reed), who will drive the truck with the precious alcohol inside. If anyone can manage this impossible trek, it is Bandit, but when a runaway bride, an obsessed sheriff, and nearly every trooper on the payroll stands in his way, can even Bandit make this run happen?
Entertainment Value: This one is pure fun, a brisk and often hilarious movie that has immense charm, wild car stunts, a remarkable cast, and enough quotable dialogue for ten scripts. I have a soft spot for this kind of hicksploitation, especially with the alcohol runs involved, so Smokey and the Bandits ticks a lot of boxes that I love, making it the kind of movie that never fails to entertain. The narrative is simple, but has ample potential for side threads and detours, so while the beer run is the focus, there’s a lot going on. The movie invests time to develop the characters and relationships, but never gets bogged down in the process, as exposition is handled on the fly and the pace doesn’t slow down to make it happen. The focus on characters helps balance out the light story, so while the narrative isn’t deep, it keeps you reeled in and the rapid fire sense of humor helps in that respect as well. I think the dialogue is one of the best parts of Smokey and the Bandit, playing off the characters and thanks to a colorful, game cast, the lines are nailed from start to finish. The car stunts are a lot of fun as well, especially knowing this was made in an era where practical stunts were required, rather than low rent CGI that fails to spark the imagination. I think this one has it all, a great sense of humor, an overload of charisma, excellent cast that embraces the material, and of course, Burt Reynolds at the top of his game. If you have even a slight interest in comedies or cinema in general, add this one to your collection.
In all of cinema, you’d be hard pressed to find a more charismatic performance than Burt Reynolds as Bandit. He is in his prime and runs with the material, in a role that is tailor made for him and he makes the most of it, with charm to burn and a comedic presence that elevates every moment. You can tell he is having immense fun with the material and that carries over to the screen, as he comes off as natural and smooth as silk, simply remarkable work. He is surrounded by some terrific supporting talent, but he shines brightest and plays off his costars well, especially in the chemistry soaked scenes with Sally Field. This is simply one of my favorite comedic performances ever, a masterful turn from Reynolds. Jackie Gleason is also fantastic as Bandit’s mortal enemy, in a ham fisted, but hilarious performance. Gleason really dials up the comedy and while he is way over the top, it is a super fun effort and his banter with Burt and Junior is always a total riot. The cast in this one also includes Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Paul Williams, Mike Henry, and Pat McCormick.