American Grafitti

It’s time to celebrate a 70s classic turning 50.

Before “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” there was “American Graffiti,” a coming-of-age comedy from director George Lucas, and producer Francis Ford Coppola. In this article, I celebrate its 50th anniversary, by telling this generation what I have seen at a special screening inside a movie theater.

Watching this movie for the first time, it was really sort of exciting seeing the 1962 LA town setting, Richard Dreyfus and Ron Howard (called Ronny Howard at the time) in their youth, and listening to Wolfman Jack’s crazy good DJ announcements. So put alway your lightsabers, hats, and whips, people; we’re talking about something different, something that happens once a decade.

We meet four young men: Curt (Dreyfus), Steve (Howard), The Toad (Charles Martin Smith), and John (Paul Le Mat), all of whom respectively end up in one situation after another. Curt is unsure about whether to begin college, and he ends up going on a quest to find a beautiful blonde (Suzanne Somers). Steve is having relationship issues with Curt’s sister Laurie (Cindy Williams), who is afraid of losing him. The Toad is given Steve’s 1958 Chevrolet Impala to borrow, and he picks up a beautiful walker (Candy Clark). And John is suckered into driving around a 14-year-old girl named Carol (Mackenzie Phillips).

You’ll also find Harrison Ford as a racer, who often challenges boys at the traffic lights, and has his way of picking up girls. That leads up to a race between him and John, which ends up going off track, literally. And Wolfman Jack makes an appearance by telling Curt he isn’t him, and “Wolfman Jack is everywhere.” He agrees to help him find the girl of his dreams.

This generation should see “American Graffiti” for what it is. A very funny, stylish, and entertaining coming-of-age movie that never condescends in anyway possible. Even though this came first, I enjoyed it more than “Dazed and Confused” and “Everybody Wants Some,” and they were good movies. This one, however, keeps you riding, and never puts it foot on the gas.

Dreyfus, Howard, Smith, and Le Mat are all wonderful, and their episodes are all brilliant. Sometimes they clash, and other times, they go their separate ways; but whatever the reason, they just have choices to make, and the movie allows them to make them choose. Lucas and Coppola have outdone themselves with this movie.

Seeing this in a movie theater should give today’s generation with a certain vibe that most people had back in the 70s. So forget those giant Bavarian pretzels and crappy pizza; see this movie with the classics: popcorn, candy, and soda. And see it as if you really know and love Dreyfus, Howard, Lucas, and Coppola. That’s basically how I viewed it in a theater.

“American Grafitti” is something to see and embrace the influence it has on people. Even at the age of 50, it still holds up. Plus the kids from those stupid “Binge” movie could learn a thing or two about maturity and humor.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Select Screenings This Sunday and Wednesday

This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.

Categories: comedy, Drama

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