I can’t imagine the world where a movie like Smokey and the Bandit car an action comedy about a famous local driver and his trucker friend tasked with collecting 400 cases of illegal Coors beer in 28 hours while being chased by a city sheriff Texas for picking up a runaway bride – may be the second highest-grossing film of the year it was released, just behind Star Wars. Yet that’s what happened in 1977, because Smokey and the Bandit caris damn magical.
(Welcome back to the Jalopnik Movie Club, where we review cars in movies and car movies, and you write with all your hot takes. This week we review Smokey And The Bandit, a movie about beer and Pontiac.)
My expectations for this movie were so low that I’m in disbelief how much I ended up enjoying it. Very few other movies have done what Smokey and the Bandit car accomplishes with its carefree attitude, great dialogue, memorable characters, and an instant one-song classic. It’s a very hard film not to like.
I was expecting something dated, boring, completely overrated. Something I couldn’t understand.
I completely underestimated this movie. Who can’t understand the desire to land a Trans Am in search of beer and riches?
Admittedly, I had to research what serves as the basis for this story, which is that Coors beer was not legally sold east of the Mississippi River until the mid-1980s because of the way it was canned. It made people want it. According to the film, it was desirable enough to shell out $80,000 for a good amount.
Unlike last week’s film, Logan Lucky, which doesn’t even feature a hint of a car chase, Smokey and the Bandit car has a car that runs in spades. It’s basically an hour-and-a-half-long, non-stop commercial for Pontiac, and I mean that in the best, most complimentary way possible. It’s definitely one of the best entries from the era when a lot of movies about hordes of dumb cops didn’t know how to drive and crash into each other in exciting, absurd ways.
The characters in this movie are the best whether you’re laughing at them or making fun of them. Burt Reynolds is often a punch line these days, but this is the movie where you really get a sense of how charismatic a leading man he could be. If I was taller, I’m not saying I’d dress like him, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t seriously consider it.
I’m almost shocked that Sally Field’s “Frog” runaway bride character isn’t the typical “boring girl” you usually find in these generically male movies. She’s not just a distraction for the movie. She’s dressed sensibly, gives the Bandit shit despite falling in love with him, and avoids being a target for punchlines. In addition, she spends a lot of time behind the wheel.
Finally, Sheriff Buford T. Justice and his son, who may or may not be of his own loins, deliver the best laughs in the entire film.
It’s a great movie to have in the background of your weekend, but it’s worth watching thoroughly. It’s borderline insane action with a few good lines to catch you off guard when paying attention. It’s sort of cheesy without slipping into cringe worthy, and that’s awesome. It’s exactly what you’d expect from stuntman Hal Needham’s directorial debut.
The Bandit’s 1977 Pontiac Trans Am is one of the most iconic muscle cars in movie history, with its paint job matching the handsome mural adorning the Bandit’s 18-wheeled vehicle. It’s hilarious how the movie veers away from stunts, like when the Trans Am lands on the bridge and is clearly destroyed, only to cut out Bandit and Frog completely unfazed by the seemingly rough landing they just experienced, or by the way the car looks in pristine condition. form considering all the walls and fences Bandit ends up going through.
The car looks great, sounds great, and the movie treats it with respect, avoiding any kind of speed ramp to make it look faster. It feels authentic, from the engine note to the squeal of the tires, and the open T-tops help open up the car for the camera to better capture the characters. Clearly there was a stuntman behind the camera and he knew what he was doing.
How Seth Rogen hasn’t remade this movie with him running illegal Colorado East weed again is almost unbelievable. I’m not saying it should happen, just that it seems obvious. Maybe it’s because he’ll never match the charm of Burt Reynolds, or how badly the drug trade is still frowned upon these days compared to the free-wheeling ’70s.
Anyway, I left to cut some T-tops out of my car and buy a CB radio, and I fully intend to talk nothing but “smokey” cops for the rest of my life. While playing this:
This is all from me, now let’s hear from those of you who emailed us your thoughts, opinions and reviews on Smokey And The Bandit: