PG, 96 min.
Director: Hal Needham
Writers: James Lee Barrett, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel, Hal Needham, Robert L. Levy
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleeson, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams
For my entry application to Hofstra University, where I attended college, I wrote an essay about how life-plans change. My primary example was how “Smokey and the Bandit” had presented me with my first life’s calling. When I grew up, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a truck driver. I explained that despite my determination for this to happen at the time I saw the movie, my life somehow steered in another direction, hence I could make no promises that where I was heading as I entered my higher education would be where I would eventually end up. It wasn’t. Yet, somehow “Smokey and the Bandit” still ended up having some influence over what I would do with my life.
That’s my little “Smokey and the Bandit” story. The movie about a couple of truckers going on an illegal beer run over the Texas border isn’t great cinema. It is fun cinema, however, and it provided a great deal of wonderful childhood memories for me.
My father, who had more to do with my obsession with cinema than he ever could’ve known, loved this movie. It was a movie made for him. He had a CB radio for family road trips. I think everyone did in the years immediately following the release of this film. I remember being on road trips and broadcasting over the CB that we were going to stop at the “Choke and Puke.” He would test us on the makes and models of the semi trucks we would come across. He even made up a game where we’d pick a make and whoever spotted the most in a given time period would win a Snickers bar. Everybody wanted Mac, but they were more expensive than other makes and I quickly learned that Kenworth was the best truck for the win.
My dad also adopted many of the sayings from the film. Just like Sheriff Buford T. Justice, whenever anything went wrong, my father would blame it on the communists. Actually, I suppose he didn’t adopt that one. I’m sure, like many Americans in those days, my dad had been blaming the communists for everything that was wrong for a long time. Whenever someone was handing out money he’d say he “needed something a little faster than that.” We even had a Firebird for one of our cars, a Formula, not a Trans Am like in the movie, but who cared. It was a Firebird! First stick I ever drove. And then they sold it. Hey!
So anyway, this movie was a pretty good memory from my childhood, and my wife’s as well. So we decided that it would be fun to show it to our boys during our weekly family movie night. We’re kind of strict on what we allow our boys to see. They understand that most PG-13 movies will wait until they’re 13. I knew the ratings were a little more lenient in the 70s, but we figured our parents surely wouldn’t have allowed us too much exposure to things they didn’t want us doing, so we thought this movie would be safe.
It may be that although we thought our parents didn’t expose us to certain things when we were kids, they might just be those same parents who today will allow their kids to watch just about anything. The language in this film is harsh, to say the least. There are two incidents where they only mouth the “F” word to avoid the ‘R’ rating at that time. Those were fine. The boys didn’t appear to know the joke, or they covered it well. It was all the other language that was a problem, and when I say all the other language, I mean they used all of it. I had no idea I was exposed to such swearing when I was a child. It explains much about me, but leaves a big question about my wife, who today still can’t utter anything too foul without getting embarrassed.