With just four months of his prison term left to serve Clovis Michael Poplin (William Atherton) gets a visit from his wife Lou Jean Poplin (Goldie Hawn) who tells him that their son is being placed in to foster care. With Lou Jean's help Clovis escapes from prison and start their journey across country to grab their son back. On the way they take Patrolman Maxwell Slide (Michael Sacks) hostage in order to keep the law at bay. Their road trip soon attracts plenty of attention as reporters join the caravan of police vehicles following them across country till eventually they reach the foster home.
There is a variety of trivia which I could speak of when it comes to "The Sugarland Express" from this being Steven Spielberg's big screen directional debut to the innovative use of cameras to the fact that it is based on a true story. In fact that is quite ironic as Spielberg's first movie was the made for TV "Duel" yet the true story on which "The Sugarland Express" is based is exactly the sort of thing you expect to be made in to a TV movie.
Now there is something else I could mention as whilst the critics were impressed with "The Sugarland Express" and this new director Steven Spielberg it didn't do so well with the public when it got its theatrical release. 40 years later and sadly I can't say that it impressed me much either and for a movie which is meant to be a comedy the actual comedy is incredibly low key and often fails to really make you laugh. When an old woman turns around and says "shit, our car is stolen" it lacks punch and shock to be amusing. Maybe the humour was more effective back in 1974 but compared to other comedies from that year it feels weak.
It is a shame there is this comedy side as a drama about a couple kidnapping a patrolman in order to get to their kid could have been good especially with the young Spielberg establishing himself. And that is what the attraction is now as "The Sugarland Express" is an interesting look at the work of a young Spielberg and certain stylistic elements from the rising crane shot to the 360 degree shot are there and are just a bit raw compared to what they would be like in his later movies.
Aside from that there is Goldie Hawn and again Hawn is entertaining but down to the style of the comedy it is far from my favourite performance from her, more cute than comical. It is the same through out as all the performances are solid but due to the tone of the movie none of them are memorable.
What this all boils down to is that "The Sugarland Express" failed to impress me and only barely entertained me. But it was interesting more as a look at the work of the young Steven Spielberg with stylistic elements which he would hone in later movies.