Every trope in Smokey and the Bandit was done to death in the 70s. It’s easy to forget just how damned good Smokey and the Bandit is. It’s a car chase movie, but it’s not just a car chase movie, which elevates it above its closest competitors, Vanishing Point and the original Gone in 60 Seconds. Of course Vanishing Point wasn’t just a car chase movie either, and for all that Vanishing Point was my dad’s favorite movie, it is Smokey and the Bandit that is a movie about my people.
The premise is simple. Big and Little Enos Burdette bet legendary truck driver the Bandit that he can’t get from Atlanta to Texarkana and back, picking up a load of Coors beer in Texarkana, in 28 hours. That’s 900 miles each way, with 400 illegal cases of beer in the back for the entire return trip. That’s over 60 miles an hour for over 24 hours straight over 1970s highways. The law is broken as soon as the Coors beer crosses the Arkansas state line.
Bandit recruits his old running partner Cledus to drive the truck. He will run blocker in a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (a choice that would influence many of my high school classmates). Bandit provides Cledus with the perfect explanation of his motivation:
“How come we doing this?”
“Well, why not?”
“Well, they said it couldn’t be done.”
“Well that’s the reason, son”