American Graffiti

American Graffiti

Stars:

Richard Dreyfuss
Ron Howard
Paul Le Mat
Charlie Martin Smith
Candy Clark
Mackenzie Phillips
Cindy Williams
Wolfman Jack
Bo Hopkins
Harrison Ford
Manuel Padilla, Jr.
Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids

George Lucas’ directorial debut focuses on the last night of freedom for a group of teenagers. They make a pact to have the best night of their lives, since some of them are set off to go to college the next day and begin the rest of their lives. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) is still deciding whether or not he should go to college the next day or stay home and go to the local community college. Steve (Ron Howard) is trying to rekindle his relationship with Curt’s sister, Laurie (Cindy Williams). John (Paul Le Mat) is riding around town with tween-ager Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) and trying to avoid paying his debt to Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford). As they go through the night, the groups of friends have the best night they possibly can and grow to understand a little bit more about themselves in the process.

This movie has to be one of my favorite classical films. Its story is timeless and brings back the nostalgia of the fun times of high school, even for people like me that graduated high school almost 10 years ago. One of my favorite scenes is in the bathroom when the cherry bomb went off. I can remember a lot of times where stuff like this would happen.

Richard Dreyfuss was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his performance in this film. Dreyfuss brought a sense of familiarity to his character that is hard to find. He becomes the friend that you knew would always be successful, but doesn’t try hard to be in the spotlight. It makes his character rather smooth and cool at the same time.

Ron Howard erases his days as Opie from The Andy Griffith Show and plays Steve, a character that is struggling in his character’s relationship with his girlfriend. This character was a break-away performance for him and gives the audience a sense that he can play characters outside of the good guy roles that he had before this film. Though the character doesn’t stray that far from his good guy personification, the role does bring up issues surrounding sex that really weren’t talked about much before this film was released. I think the writing of this character was excellent in the way that it brings up the subject but at the same time does not alienate the audience.

Costing just $777,000 to make, American Graffiti became a cultural phenomenon. To date, the film has made $115,000,000, with $55,000,000 in rentals. The film spawned an entire generation of nostalgia for the baby boomers that grew up in the 1950’s that spawned into such creations as the shows Happy Days and Mork and Mindy. The film’s success also helped spawn the careers of some of Hollywood’s greatest actors.

Just as big as the stars that came out of this film are the cars that were featured in it. Some of the cars that were included in the film were a ’55 Chevy and a ’32 Ford Coupe. For one of the movie’s most important scenes, over 300 pre-1962 vehicles were used.

I think this is a great feature for the young and old alike. It brings something classical and fresh to the screen each and every time that I watch it, even 30-40 years after the film was initially released.

I give this film an A+

Fun Facts:

In the scene where John and Carol get hit by a water balloon, the balloon was supposed to hit the side of the car. Instead, the balloon missed and hit Carol. Phillips could not stop laughing, despite the fact that the scene was written to go entirely different than it did in the terms of the water balloon and the reaction Mackenzie was intended to have.

The crash of the Vespa at the beginning of the film wasn’t supposed to happen. Charles Smith genuinely lost control of the vehicle, but cameras kept rolling anyway.

This film was one of the first features to use “Character Epilogues” at the end of the film to show what happened to the characters after the film ended.