Smokey and the Bandit remains a road comedy classic with memorable performances by Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason and Sally Fields and the always iconic Pontiac Trans Am. Just shy of its 45th Anniversary, the movie races to Ultra HD with a beautiful 4K presentation, a notable Dolby Atmos track but the same collection of bonuses as before. Nevertheless, this UHD edition of the comedy classic is Recommended.
Burt Reynolds and Sally Field may take top-billing in Smokey and the Bandit, but for me, Jackie Gleason is the real standout star of this road comedy classic. Don't me wrong, Reynolds as the wisecracking bootlegger Bandit remains an absolute riot, and Fields as the runaway bride on for the joyride still provides the plot with a satisfying emotional arc. And of course, Bandit's black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is an icon in its own right. There are also several car stunts worth mentioning with the bridge jump arguably being the most celebrated. But Gleason, with his hyperbolic Texan drawl, as the relentless but honorable Sheriff Buford T. Justice is undeniably the most memorable aspect of this silly romp.
Joined by his dim-witted son Junior Justice (Mike Henry) — that name alone should be enough to garner a few chuckles — the foul-mouthed peace officer doggedly pursuing Bandit across several Southern states still makes me laugh out loud four decades later. If it's not witnessing that poor police vehicle slowly falling apart over the course of the film or Junior hilariously holding down his father's hat as they speed down the highway, then it's Gleason delivering several hysterical lines in that wonderfully pissed off tone of voice only Gleason could convincingly pull off. Some of my favorites still are "What we are dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law" and "You sombitches couldn't close an umbrella."
Nearly forty-five years later, Smokey and the Bandit remains a side-splitting riot.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out our review of the 2012 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Smokey and the Bandit to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack that includes a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via Movies Anywhere, users have access to the 4K UHD version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The dual-layered UHD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static screen with the usual options along the bottom, music playing in the background and quick access to special features along the left side of the screen.
Breaker, breaker! The Bandit races through the Ultra HD highways with a supercharged and sleek HEVC H.265 encode that leaves its Blu-ray predecessors in the dust. Reportedly coming from a newly-polished remaster of the original elements, the native 4K transfer boasts excellent contrast balance with squeaky-clean whites, giving the action-comedy a new lease on life and looking fresher, cooler than ever before. Crisper, more dynamic specular highlights allow for a tighter, brilliant glow along the edges of clouds while the many vehicles throughout enjoy a glossier, realistic sheen and a shiny twinkle along the chrome detailing of the trucks. The 2160p picture also showcases richer, truer blacks that are consistent, supplying Bandit's iconic Trans Am with a silky, jet black finish that glistens in the sun. Awash in a fine layer of natural grain, the 1.85:1 image arrives with a beautiful film-like appeal and great depth.
The HDR10 presentation also flaunts an improved color palette with better variation in the secondary hues and a sumptuous array of primaries, bathing the action with an eye-catching pop and energy. Bandit's red shirt is a deep, vibrant crimson while the trees and grass range from vivid emeralds and shamrocks to darker tones of pine in some areas. Better still are the wide, dynamic selection of yellows, tans and browns, such as the vivid, buttery shades of the scarves worn by the Burdettes, the deep golden hues of the Firebird and the soft, sandy stripes of Snowman's semi-truck. Likewise, facial complexions appear more natural and fuller with revealing, lifelike textures. The 4K video showcases sharp, well-defined lines in the vehicles, clothing and buildings while the lettering of road signs and advertisements are distinct and legible from a distance. A few softer sections expectedly show up, but overall, the picture is detailed and in excellent condition, making this the best the movie has ever looked. (HDR10 Video Rating: 82/100)
Running from the law in a black Trans Am has never sounded better than it does in this UHD edition of the comedy classic. Granted, originating from a monaural audio track, fans should expect relatively similar results to its DTS-HD MA counterpart. But thanks to a suped-up and spirited Dolby Atmos soundtrack, that original design notably benefits from the extra-breathing room afforded by the object-based format.
Dialogue reproduction is precise and very well-prioritized although some of the accents can make it a bit difficult to understand what a few characters are saying. The mid-range exhibits improved clarity and extension with better acoustical definition in the upper frequencies during the many action sequences. The rocking song selection also enjoys strong fidelity and clean separation while also subtly expanding the soundfield into the sides and top heights, generating a broad and engaging soundstage that's full of warmth. The low-end is not particularly noteworthy or memorable, but the bass comes with plenty of weight that feels appropriate enough to give the action a good sense of presence. A few ambient effects occasionally and effectively bleed into the left and right front channels, but overall, this new audio mix maintains a front-heavy presentation, as it should be for a film of this vintage. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 74/100)
Just shy of its 45th Anniversary, the road comedy classic Smokey and the Bandit remains a side-splitting slapstick actioner with memorable characters, a beloved iconic car and a timeless villain, made all the more unforgettable because of Jackie Gleason's hilarious ad libs. The Bandit races through the Ultra HD highways with a beautiful 4K HDR10 presentation and a notable Dolby Atmos soundtrack, making this the best the film has ever looked or sounded on any home video format. Porting over the same collection of bonus features as the previous Blu-ray release, this UHD edition of the comedy classic is recommended.