Dear Universal Studios,
No one would have ever guessed, in the beginnings of THE FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, that these movies would have become as successful as they did. I certainly didn’t, even though I enjoyed all the movies to some degree. The first movie is a lot of fun, but the way the universe kept expanding, adding more characters, great action sequences, and interesting plot lines, basically turned these movies into your big franchise. And the movies, beyond all expectations, keep getting better. We’re now invested in all these characters – Vin Diesel’s Dom, Paul Walker’s O’Conner, Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, and even Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs.
As the movies move into a larger scale than before, globetrotting and causing vehicular mayhem all over the planet, I think something should be stated – none of these movies would be possible without Hal Needham. Needham died this fall, and his SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT is one of the most profitable movies in the Universal catalog. It’s also the godparent of all the FAST AND FURIOUS movies. It shares those movies’ speed fetish, and while Needham didn’t invent the car chase, he sure as hell helped perfect it. SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and THE CANNONBALL RUN both have a love for that red strip on the RPM gage, and not only that, Needham and the filmmakers involved with the FAST AND FURIOUS movies share the joy of action moviemaking.
So it’s only the right, fitting, and honorable thing to do to bring Bo “the Bandit” Darville into the FAST AND FURIOUS universe.
Let’s face it – Burt Reynolds isn’t getting any younger. And it would only take one movie. Let’s get that black Trans Am fixed up, get Burt behind the wheel with that hat and that shit-eating, full-of-love grin, and let’s do something amazing. Imagine it – in one fell swoop, this franchise would achieve heights only hinted at before. Hell, let’s bring Paul Williams in as the nefarious Little Enos, now leader of the biggest smuggling operation north of the border. Whatever it takes. Or go a different route entirely. “There’s only one man who can drive that road in less than 18 hours. But he’s retired.” “Well, unretire him.”
I think this would be a great way for Universal to show fitting tribute to those movies of the past, that brought so much joy to moviegoers back in the day (and not incidentally, brought in a ton of money for Universal). Disney has Marvel and STAR WARS, Sony has Spider-Man, but Universal Studios is sitting on one of the most popular movies of all time. Only STAR WARS made more money in 1977 than SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.
Plus, the movie still holds up. It’s still as fun as ever, full of great action, comedy, and lovable characters. Just like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies. Would it lighten up the franchise? Yeah, a bit. There’s some serious stuff going on in those movies right now, with the death of Han, but THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies have always been a sheer blast of adrenaline, and I think SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT shares that.
Yes, Reynolds is almost pushing 80. But what a way to go out – behind the wheel of that 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, pedal to the metal, “East Bound And Down” blaring on the speakers, showing these young people what it really meant to put the hammer down, with an ice cold Coors in his hand while he did it. It would be something nice for Universal to do, and a showing of respect to a filmmaker that practically started it all.
Thanks for reading, Universal. I can’t wait for FAST AND FURIOUS 7, and for next week’s FAST AND FURIOUS 6 Blu-Ray. I’ll certainly be purchasing it, because I unabashedly love these movies with no guilty conscience. Neither should any moviegoer – these movies have become something genuinely thrilling and fun. Let’s keep them going, and show some respect and love for the guys who helped bring them here.