The Bandit is back! Or is he? This final installment of the trilogy is nothing more than a cash grab as Burt Reynolds seems to be missing and is replaced by Jerry Reed, who reprises his role but must pull off the impossible.
Buford T. Justice has finally retired from law enforcement. However, he has been unable to do the one thing he had always hoped for and that is capture the Bandit. Nevertheless, Justice feels it is time for retirement. Upon moving to Florida with his son Junior, Buford is truly unhappy with retirement. However, an opportunity arises that allows Justice to come out of retirement and yet it can be taken away as well.
Businessman Big Enos is opening a seafood restaurant and gives Buford a challenge. Carrying a big fish, Buford must make it from Miami to Texas or give up the badge for good. As Big Enos and Little Enos set many obstacles, Buford outsmarts them on all occasions. The father-son duo decide the only way to stop Justice is to bring back the Bandit. However, Bo is no longer available so they get help from Bo’s best buddy Cledus Snow, who becomes the new Bandit. Will Buford make it to Texas in time and what happens when he sees his arch-nemesis return to the fold?
Oh why, why did Jackie Gleason decide to end his legendary run as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in this manner? While overall, it is not completely bad, this third and final installment of the car chase series has more misses than hits. Originally meant to have Justice become the Bandit himself, thus calling the original film Smokey is the Bandit, test audiences hated that idea and the film went through reshoots. However, with Burt Reynolds unable to work on the film (perhaps because he was working on Cannonball Run II), the idea was to bring back Jerry Reed as Snowman, but make him the new Bandit.
Reed is definitely no Reynolds, but given the time frame he was given for reshoots, one can’t blame Reed for the film’s failure. The problem was that the writers decided to add some ridiculous fare in terms of obstacles for Buford and his dimwit son Junior, once again played by Mike Henry. And what’s the Bandit without a love interest of sorts? This time, Colleen Camp plays the marvelously named Dusty Trails (a positive for the film) but it seems like she is more there for the adventure than the romance. A running gag in the film is Justice getting constantly stalked by a crazed woman, played by Faith Minton, who seems to have that physical comedy panache. To prove this, check her out in Ski Patrol as she tends to get herself in uncompromising positions with her husband on the slopes to the delight of tourist photographers (in a tasteful manner, no nudity involved).
Director Dick Lowry is definitely no Hal Needham and his attempt to bring that Bandit-style action doesn’t always work. Yet again, with reshoots and the original idea scrapped, it’s not much his fault but again, when you have a scene where Junior gets invited to a barbecue at what turns out to be a nudist camp and while spying on Justice, Big and Little Enos deck out in drag, then you know a fourth installment was definitely not going to happen and thankfully, this would be an end to the series. Not a good end, but an end.
Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 has a few fun moments, but that’s all it resorts to as the overall film pretty much tarnishes the legacy of the series due to the horrendous script and reshoots. In today’s world, the fans may have just wanted to Smokey as the Bandit. Alas, that will never be.
WFG RATING: C-
A Universal Pictures production. Director: Dick Lowry. Producer: Mort Engleberg. Writers: Stuart Birnbaum and David Dashey; based on characters created by Hal Needham and Robert L. Levy. Cinematography: James Pergola. Editing: David E. Blewitt, Byron “Buzz” Brandt, and Christopher Greenbury.
Cast: Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Colleen Camp, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Faith Minton.