Perhaps keeping oneself occupied during these days of isolation is the biggest challenge for many folks. If you’re in an RV and thinking perhaps these days of staring out at the vast landscape or abandoned construction equipment (depending upon where you’re parked) has gotten old, consider an hour and a half of good, old-fashioned escapism.
Today we dial back 43 years and revisit “Smokey and the Bandit.” The brisk 96 minutes flies by like a souped-up Trans-Am on the open road, that’s because Pontiac’s classic hot rod is the “other” star of the movie along with Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Sally Field, and the Great One himself, Jackie Gleason, as the no-holds-barred, Sherriff Buford T. Justice.
Odds are this is indeed a revisit and not a first time viewing of one of 1977’s cinema smashes. Made for just 4.3 million dollars, it netted a nifty 300 million, cementing Reynolds’ place in the pantheon of box office draws in the 70s alongside a couple of guys named Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood.
Although the film is filled with nearly every “good ol’ boy,” “cops sure are knuckleheads,” “southern fried,” “beer chuggin’” “CB yackin’” cliché in the book, it’s still absolutely an irresistible, all-out joy ride through the south. The plot is simple enough, the gauntlet has been laid down for the Bandit (Reynolds) and the Snowman (Reed) to drive to Texas, fill up a trailer full of Coors beer and bring it back to Georgia for a whopping 80 grand, all inside 28 hours. Well, nothing goes as planned, naturally. The Bandit stumbles onto the perky Frog (Field) who left Sherriff Justice’s son, Junior (Mike Henry), at the altar. Ed. Note: Henry rarely gets the recognition he deserves in an understated but brilliant comedic turn as the dimwitted but loyal son.
Justice goes into full reclamation mode to gather up Frog for his son, but not before Bandit intercedes, and suddenly Justice, as well as nearly every law enforcement member in the South, goes on a wild goose chase through every bayou, service road, and open field in sight. And it’s all played out to a country-pickin’ original soundtrack provided by the uber-talented, Reed. It’s no wonder why this film, predictability and all, was so wildly popular when it first hit the scene.
Hey, why not let “Smokey and the Bandit” serve up some non-stop laughs in a world that could use it just about now. A word to the wise however, skip the sequels. You’ll thank us later.