It's a shame when people just can't leave things be and end up diluting something that was, if not great, at least very enjoyable. At this time of writing there have been 3 cinema releases with the Smokey & The Bandit name attached and a number of TV movies (that I haven't been brave enough to track down and endure yet). But things should have been left alone after the first two movies.
This third outing decides to focus on Sheriff Buford T. Justice (once again played by Jackie Gleason) and his son (once again played by Mike Henry). The sheriff is due to retire but finds that the relaxation and lack of challenge doesn't really suit him so he ends up accepting a challenge from Big Enos and Little Enos (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams returning) that involves getting from A to B within a certain time limit. There's $250, 000 to be won but if the sheriff loses he has to hand over his beloved badge. Of course, as soon as the sheriff sets off on his journey the dirty tricks begin.
Directed by Dick Lowry, and written by Stuart Birnbaum and David Dashey, this movie just lacks any of the charm of the first two movies and really becomes nothing more than a few car chase sequences with little to no real reason for them and with the premise that unfolds I don't blame anyone who watches the movie and actually feels cheated. Because it IS a cheat. Okay, detractors of the first two movies may easily dismiss those as nothing more than a few cas chase sequences with little to no real reason for them either but I'd argue that those movies had a little bit more going on beneath the surface. Well, the second film certainly did. And there was real warmth and affection there. Sadly, this film feels like the cynical cash-in it so clearly is.
Jackie Gleason is enjoyable enough once more, as is Mike Henry, but nobody else really fares all that well. The antics of Big Enos and Little Enos seem pointless and irritating, Jerry Reed returns but you can't help feeling that he should have stayed away from this outing. And Burt Reynolds makes a very brief appearance, most of it in flashback form. Colleen Camp is an enjoyable female presence, it's a shame she didn't get better material to work with.
If you love the first two then you may feel the urge to see this one but I ask you to battle that urge and hold on to the first two movies as THE definitive adventures of Smokey & The Bandit.