Smokey and the Bandit (1977) Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed and Jackie Gleason.
Chances are, if you’ve made the decision to sit down and watch Smokey and the Bandit, you’ve already made your mind up that you’re going to enjoy it. In truth, that’s the only way to approach it.
Released in 1977, Hal Needham’s film is like the feel-good antidote to Vanishing Point; a road movie caper that rejoices in the romance and kinship of driving fast cars, CB radio, big trucks, country music and sticking it to the law. It’s a prime, juicy cut of potent American imagery – with Burt Reynolds’ ‘Bandit’ existing in a state of heaven that alpha males can only dream of.
Along with his willing accomplice Cledus (Jerry Reed), Bandit agrees to transport 400 cases of beer (unlawfully) across the state lines, while being pursued by an army of cartoon law enforcers headed up by Jackie Gleason’s delightfully spiteful ‘Buford T. Justice’. Minimal brain power required.
For the hell of it, Reynolds is eventually joined by the tomboy playfulness of Sally Field, who just so happens to be fully garbed in wedding whites, fleeing the scene of nuptials she wants no part of. It’s never anything other than extremely silly, but therein lies the appeal. Reynolds carries energy and bullish charm, breaking the speed limit, as well as the fourth wall on one occasion.
Second only to Star Wars at the US box office in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit is pure 1970’s junk food escapism. It’s Coors beer and hot dogs. It’s Stetsons, roaring engines and a fantastical idea of the glory of American life on the road, all rounded off by Burt Reynolds’ impressive moustache. It’s just as easy to absent-mindedly enjoy as it is to dismiss. 3/5