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SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) ****

Ah yes, Smokey and the Bandit.  One of the greatest films ever made.  One of those films that whenever it’s on TV, you just HAVE to watch it until the very end when Burt Reynolds puts the pedal to the metal and delivers four hundred cases of Coors to Big Enos.  This movie has everything you could possibly want.  Comedy, drama, exciting chase scenes, terrific stunts and some of the greatest performances you’ll ever see. 

 

The plot has The Bandit (Reynolds) and Snowman (the late, great Jerry Reed) taking a bet to transport a whole lot of beer across state lines in a ridiculously small amount of time.  Snowman hauls the beer in his 18 wheel rig while Bandit runs “blocker” in his badass black Trans Am.  Along the way, they pick up Frog (Sally Field) who happens to be running away from the persistent Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) and his dim-witted son Junior (Mike Henry), and end up being chased by every “County Mountie” in the state. 

 

I have an unabashed love for this movie.  When I was a kid, I used to spend summers with my aunt who fed me a steady diet of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and Burt Reynolds movies.  Smokey and the Bandit was one of the earliest Burt films I was weaned on.  It’s far and away Burt’s best from his Golden Era and features some of the best acting he ever did.  Equally great is Reed as Snowman.  While Bandit is the flashier of the duo, Snowman is the soul and the scene where he gets revenge on a bunch of bikers who insulted his dog is a classic.  Reed also co-wrote and sings the theme song, “East Bound and Down”, which is not only one of the greatest country songs ever written, but one of the greatest SONGS ever written; period. 

 

As awesome as both Reynolds and Reed are, the movie really belongs to Gleason.  There was a reason why Orson Welles called him “The Great One”.  Damn, I can’t think of a single time he’s on screen in which he doesn’t say or do something that makes you laugh out loud.  Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello all had their great films, but none of them ever batted .1000, getting a laugh in every single scene they were in.  Gleason does it here and as a result, gets all of the movie’s best lines like “Bank robbing is baby shit compared to what this dude’s doing!”, “I’m going to barbecue your ass in molasses!”, “No one makes me look like a possum’s pecker!”, and “You pile of monkey nuts!”   But my favorite is when he scolds Junior and tells him:  “There is no way that you come from my loins.  When I get home, the first thing I’m going to punch your mama in the mouth!”

 

Two sequels followed but neither came close to matching this classic.  Director Hal Needham also teamed up with Reynolds for the Cannonball Run movies.

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