Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Smokey Bear

The other night I had the pleasure of re-watching the classic road film "Smokey and the Bandit", where Burt Reynolds plays a "legend" who goes by the CB handle "Bandit" who takes on a bet that he can't drive from Atlanta to Texarcana and back in 28 hours (picking up then-prohibited Coors beer in Texas and bringing it back on the return trip). He enlists the help of his friend Cletus "Snowman" Snow (played by acting legend Jerry Reed) who drives the rig while Bandit rides a Trans Am to "block" for the truck--essentially, attracting all the local fuzz so that the Snowman can speed along without problems. Of course, Bandit finds love on the way in the form of Sally Field and runs afoul of a relentless cop, Buford T. Justice, played by Jackie Gleason. The film is incredibly dated--the hairstyles, bell bottoms, CB radios--and pure mindless fun. It is also Burt Reynolds at his Burt Reynoldsiest.

Watching this though reminded me of discussions with friends where we pondered why this classic hit film was never re-made by the studios (which, having run out of original ideas decades ago, have been remaking and rebooting everything from "Stepford Wives" to "Amityville Horror"). Remember, "Smokey" was the biggest hit film of 1977 until Star Wars knocked it off its perch, and the film spawned two lesser sequels and hundreds of imitators (the Cannonball Run series, Dukes of Hazard, BJ and the Bear). As a kid in the '80s, I remember Trans Ams being incredibly popular, largely due to this film. Surely a remake is ripe?

Of course, a remake would have to follow certain rules:

1) The film still has to take place in the '70s. The CB radio culture would not translate well in the modern era, nor would it make sense for the police not to use aircraft radar for interstate pursuits. Plus, the '70s fashions just work well for it.

2) Keep the "cargo" just as benign as in the original--taking Coors beer east of the Mississippi (which was illegal back then) is a lot more good-hearted than say, moving a truckload of explosives and crack cocaine that distance.

3) Cast the parts well. This is the tricky part--sure, a Randy Quaid type could play the part of Buford T. Justice, and the Sally Field character can be handled by any "artsy" type actress in her 30s. Snowman could probably be played by any country singer who can play himself (as was the case with Jerry Reed)--maybe Tim McGraw, say. But the key part--Bandit himself--would be tricky. It'd have to be a hotshot actor, at least in his late 30s (since he's playing a man who's already a "legend"), and with good "southern" cred.

4) Some twists and turns would be necessary to keep this from being a "shot for shot" remake. Maybe Bandit drives through a parade, or across an airport tarmac. Maybe they picked up the wrong shipment of Coors and they also get pursued by Hells Angels going after their stolen beer.

Sadly, what we can probably expect is Hollywood to screw up the remake so bad we'll never speak of it again.

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