Swearey and the Rip-off
What's it about?
Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Smokey and the Bandit Part 3" (Universal Pictures, 1983). We begin with a series of flashbacks from the previous "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, with particular focus on Texarkana Sheriff Buford T. Justice's (Jackie Gleason) failures in apprehending the legendary outlaw Bo "The Bandit" Darville (Burt Reynolds).
|Also, this "Patton" bit, probably made for the trailer.|
After his most recent defeat (in "Smokey and the Bandit II") Buford has decided to retire, only to be cajoled by millionaire Enos "Big Enos" Burdette (Pat McCormick) and his son, "Little Enos" (Paul Williams) into coming out of retirement with the promise of a bet: Deliver a plastic shark from his retirement village in Florida to their ranch in Texas in 14 hours.
|Just like today, the rest of us only exist for the sport of millionaires and billionaires.|
If Buford wins, he gets $250,000, but if he loses, he has to give up his sheriff's star to Little Enos. Buford, frustrated with retirement, takes the bet and sets out with his son, the monumentally stupid Junior (Mike Henry), but the Burdettes don't play fair and try to slow down and humiliate Buford every step of the way.
|I will admit, it's good to see Buford take on the Burdettes for once.|
When Buford manages to blow through their schemes, the Burdettes take out a side bet with Cledus "Snowman" Snow (Jerry Reed) to steal the shark back from the sheriff and deliver it himself for $250,000.
|The Imitation Game.|
Snowman uses this opportunity to masquerade as "The Bandit," donning similar clothes and driving a black Pontiac Trans Am, this time a 1982 with a custom 455 Super Duty engine (very similar to the model used for "K.I.T.T." in the NBC show, "Knight Rider").
|Yeah, that one.|
Right off the bat, Snowman inadvertently picks up disgruntled secretary Dusty Trails (Colleen Camp) who elects to help him on his mission.
|I don't want to body shame, but I can't not look at the gap in her teeth in this scene.|
Now it's a race between Sheriff Justice and "The Bandit" to make it to the Burdette's ranch for a quarter of a million dollars.
|By plane, trains, and automobiles! Except for the planes and trains, but with boats instead.|
Some background information
This is the last theatrical release of any of "The Bandit" movies, and you could tell that after the critical failure that was "Smokey and the Bandit II" the studio was trying (and failing) to head in a new direction, replacing director Hal Needham and writer Robert L. Levy for director Dick Lowry (whose body of work was primarily in primetime television) and writers Stuart Birnbaum and David Dashev while Needham and Reynolds were making the movie "Stroker Ace" (also for Universal Pictures). What's more, Burt Reynolds (the star of the previous two movies) only makes a cameo appearance late in the film and Sally Field is entirely absent, and the change in cast and creative team is felt throughout the movie.
|And his cameo is a dream sequence, of all things.|
While Jerry Reed isn't responsible for the entire soundtrack like in the first film, he does contribute several prominent songs and dominates the tracks that are here (his "Buford T. Justice" song has been stuck in my head since I first watched this move almost 40 years ago -- I did myself no favors in watching this again).
Almost too bad to mention
Let's just get down to it: This is a horrible, horrible movie. They gave Gleason final approval of the script, and let him write many of the jokes, so there's a lot of racially charged humor (including an entire "goofball" sequence involving the Ku Klux Klan) where there doesn't need to be, and a lot of jokes at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community (in fairness, just like most 80s films).
|Just good natured horseplay, as today's GOP would have you believe.|
As frustrating as all of that stuff is, the movie just isn't funny (except for Mike Henry's "Junior," as his incredible naivety is always hilarious, but it's not enough to carry the film).
|Junior's so dumb, god bless 'im.|
This is compounded by the fact that Jerry Reed is not a leading man, and his character of Snowman just spends most of the movie (literally) strutting around in his Bandit costume while asking himself, "what would The Bandit do?" This is further evident with the female lead, Colleen Camp, who (let's be clear, this woman is a veteran actress with a lot of prominent film roles under her belt) spends the entire movie in what looks to be a clown costume while doing a really bad Mae West impression (she's easily the worst performer in this movie).
|Let me tell you, in a movie with so may tan bikini clad women in it, it's a relief to see a high-collared frilly sleeved, ascot-wearing, white-painted "Bozo the Clown" type woman in this movie.|
In short, it's an awful script, terribly executed.
The good (briefly)
Is it all bad? No. This movie subscribes to the first film's focus on smaller, focused car chases, and once it gets going (it takes awhile to get there) it moves at a fair clip with lots of stunt work and crashes.
|Just creative ways of taking out smokey.|
So while it lacks the scope and scale of the destruction shown in "Smokey and the Bandit II," it still seems to be a bit faster paced than that film.
|Surprisingly, this is the first "The Bandit" film to do the two-wheel trick.|
There's even a moment towards the end where Snowman shows how chivalrous he is in allowing his enemy to triumph, because that's what he needs.
Think twice before watching with the kids
Do not, and I mean, DO NOT watch this film with small children. With Gleason's involvement in the scripting, there is noticeably more cursing than in the other movies (not from other characters, only from Gleason's Justice -- although many of his more risque lines have been dubbed over even in this theatrical version, probably to get a lower rating). Because this is a different creative team, there is a lot of implied sex in the film, including a scene where the characters congregate in a brothel for far too long, wherin Sheriff Justice is constantly hit on by a tall pastiche of a trans woman, and another scene near the end involving nudists for a one joke punchline (I will admit I laughed at that one, as it shows just how repressed Buford T. Justice is).
|Why yes, rural America: All trans people are sex-obsessed deviants who want nothing more than to get into an old straight cis man's pants! (FFS)|
These scenes add nothing to the film overall and are just there to shock audiences. While there is no photographed nudity (with the possible exception of one woman), the heavy implications might lead to some uncomfortable conversations. It's PG, but PG with a slice of racism, foul language, tobacco use, and unnecessary sexual imagery.
Where can you watch it?
If for some reason you wanted to watch this terrible movie, you might be out of luck -- I couldn’t find any services currently streaming it, and you can't even rent it on Amazon Prime Video. I used my DVD copy from the "Smokey and the Bandit Outlaw Collection," but the movie was formatted in a 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio that makes it quite wide, but the company that did the DVD transfer screwed up it up, squishing everything horizontally to make the film seem stretched, and no amount of adjusting I did could fix it.