Synopsis: In this plotless, mindless chase movie, papa Big Enos and son Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams) hire Cletus (Jerry Reed) to haul a Jaws-replica shark from Miami to Texas to advertise their new seafood restaurant. There is big money in it for Cletus if he can get to Texas on time. Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) mistakes Cletus for his old nemesis the Bandit (Burt Reynolds, who only appears briefly at the end of the film), postpones his retirement, and with his inept son Junior (Mike Henry) in tow, chases Cletus across the South for a disconnected series of misadventures and bad jokes.
Can you believe that the second sequel to ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ is better than the first one (sequel, I mean)? It’s not hard to do, given just how odorous part two of the franchise was, but it’s nonetheless amazing considering that they no longer had their star, Burt Reynolds, and, thus, had to rejig the whole concept of Smokey chasing The Bandit.
In part three, they went on to focus on Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Justice instead, substituting The Bandit with a wannabe for only part of the film. Jerry Reed does his best to infuse this wannabe “Bandit” with humour and charm, but he naturally pales in comparison to Reynolds. Not that Reynolds was necessarily irreplaceable, mind you, it’s just that Reed is a musician more so than an actor.
Apparently, the film was originally supposed to feature Jackie Gleason as both Smokey and the Bandit. However, preview audiences didn’t like the film as such (apparently they found this concept confusing ) so they reshot the Bandit scenes with Jerry Reed in his place. Frankly, it’s likely a good thing, given Gleason’s execrable multi-role “performance” at the end of ‘Smokey 2’.
Still, I’d be curious to see what the end result of this was; if ever it’s released on video, I might actually want to see it. A part of me needs to know; my insatiable curiosity is stronger than any experiential torture that Gleason could ever conceive, no matter how bad, how vile, it gets. In my experience, curiosity doesn’t kill (at least, not this cat!). At best, it maims.
The humour in part three is of ‘Police Academy 2’ quality – which is pretty low, when you think about it. And yet, bizarrely enough, it’s neither as cheap nor as funny – it plays safely down the middle, providing corny laughs for the kiddies who could get away with watching a PG romp full of curses and mild nudity. It won’t offer much to adult audiences, except (perhaps) a bit of cheesy fun.
Which is why I even rated it as high as I did: I didn’t hate it. It even had a few amusing touches. But it is nonetheless a big piece of crap. Seriously, what else might one expect from a film whose plot is driving a fake shark cross-country? It’s a step up over part two, but it’s a few notches below the original. And that’s saying a lot. Frankly, as a whole, the ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ series is some seriously weak !@#$.