Muscle Car Tourney #2: Smokey (1977) vs Furious (2001)
If The Fast and the Furious (2001) typifies today, Smokey and the Bandit (1977) embodies its day and age too. Each was a smash success that led to further franchise sequels. Both of them had caricatures instead of three-dimensional characters and each one had more pop-references than an episode of Saturday Night Live.
Smokey and the Bandit inspired a generation of muscle-car trip movies and did so with raw abandon. Racist jokes, the use of the f-word, and stereotypical Southerners are the usual fare in this movie. Burt Reynolds was a proven star, so a blockbuster was assured at his casting, it was just a question of how much money Smokey was going to make. Reynolds is the hero and sells the movie. The only problem with it today is that much of the language, popular references, and backwoods thinking has gotten tired, cliche, and offensive.
Much like The Fast and the Furious has car detailers, young mechanic geniuses, and super-charged cars, Smokey and the Bandit has truck drivers, muscle cars, and rebellious cowboys. Both movies have very similar themes, only divided by their setting and environment. I’m not sure if truck driving is an unexplored film subject, but it certainly is stereotypical in Smokey, and given a heroic face in support of Burt Reynolds as he travels across country with Sally Field. Ladies loved Burt Reynolds and ate up the love-story to the tune of a 300 million dollar gross.
The Fast and the Furious is a modern Smokey and the Bandit. It has an urban setting, colorful cars and a diverse cast. Like Smokey has chases, The Fast and the Furious has races. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker make his movie work and have pretty good performances. They sell the themes of the movie, and Paul Walker creates a fish-out-of-water story in a muscle car movie, of all things. The audience experiences and learns about street races, suped-up cars, and grunge mechanics while Walker does. This is probably the most successful way of presenting this kind of subject I’ve ever seen.
The muscle cars are very memorable in both movies. The 1977 Trans-Am is one of the most memorable cars in movie history, but Furious throws in dozens of four-color cars to compete. I think the 1970 Dodge Charger isn’t as memorable as the Trans-Am, but it has the same striking impact on the film, and helps Vin Diesel be more badass than he could in a Honda, nothing against Hondas.
In one-on-one competition, I think The Fast and the Furious comes out on top. Smokey is too dated to go very far in a competition like this one. I wouldn’t say Furious is a stellar movie, but it has enough successful things to be re-watchable to the modern-day movie-goer.
Muscle Car Tourney Competition #2 – This post