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This sequel to 'American Graffiti', the hit movie that spawned the 'retro `50s' fad of the early `70s, features everybody from the original cast except Richard Dreyfuss. Now older and wiser, the kids of 'Where were you in `62' learn to deal with life during the mid `60s Vietnam War Era. The film is unique in its filmmakers' method of juxtaposing frames of concurrent action from different scenes side by side with current scenes. The sequel's storyline idea takes its cue from the original film's end-credits, as all action again occurs within one day in their lives, but this time, in yet another original move, it's the same day, New Years' Eve, in 4 separate years in 4 of the different protagonists' lives. The film moves back and forth across the years effectively; to `64 with dragster John Milner in the race of his life, to `65 with Terry The Toad in Vietnam, to `66 with Terry's girlfriend Debbie Dunham, now a hippie chick in San Francisco just prior to the Summer of Love, to `67 with Steve & Laurie Bolander, the king & queen of the prom, now married with children in Modesto, CA. It explores the main themes of the `60s era: the war, muscle cars, drugs, campus protests, burning your draft card, police brutality `a la Kent State, "make-love-not-war", and more great music from the era. A must see for fans of the original film, the use of the inventive filming techniques is unusual and surely dismayed theatergoers upon its release as it bombed frightfully, probably due to the disdain for the `50s & `60s as being passe on the fringe of the `80s. But it is still a nicely-done film and quite enjoyable. It also features cameos from others in the original movie, including Harrison Ford reprising his role as Bob Falfa, now an S.F.P.D. motorcycle patrolman, plus Mackenzie Phillips & Bo Hopkins. A great study of `60s life and times.
Being such a huge fan of American Graffiti, I was thrilled when I saw that it was out on video finally (we here in the UK have been deprived of it for 20 years). Checking out the IMDB while waiting for it to arrive, I was, however, weary of my purchase. An average 4 out of 10 did not look good. Of course, the mistake everyone makes though is that this should be compared to the original - which is impossible. AG was, and still is, a unique film that can never be replicated. Thus, I have to commend the concept behind this other unique gem, which follows four characters through four different New Years Eves. The return of so many original cast members is fascinating, even the little Pharoh is back helping Big John on his dragster! Yes, the split screens from Debbie's year was annoying, but apart from that I cannot really criticise this film. It is more of a documentary - style 'Where are they now' kind of thing, and it really works! So - here is my advise. Unfortunately this aint on DVD, so you'll need a VHS too. Watch the original and marvel at its delights. Then, the moment the credits finish rolling, whack this vid into your player. This way, you won't be disappointed. 10 out of 10.
The final frames of the original "American Graffiti" provide one-line summaries of the fates of the film's four central male characters. While somewhat sexist in omitting the female characters, the ending of the original film provided all the information about those people that even the most ardent fan of the movie would want. However, someone felt that mega-bucks could be made by detailing the dreary lives of these characters after the original film ended. Bad move. Making an insurance salesman and his wife, a nerdy private in Vietnam, a drag race driver, and a overgrown hippie into interesting characters in interesting situations was far beyond the talents of those who wrote this nearly unwatchable movie. While most of the original cast is back, with only Richard Dreyfuss having the good sense to stay away, "More American Graffiti" is a mess of silly situations that involve protests, car races, country singers, and the Vietnam war. The use of split screens, once thought innovative and daring, is overused here to the point of distraction and adds confusion to the already confused goings one. This is a sequel that demonstrates nearly everything that can go wrong with a sequel. Perhaps it should be screened in film schools as a lesson. Even the use of period music, which was a delight in the original, is poorly done here. If you want more "American Graffiti," see the original twice.
So why did we need "More"? It must've been a corporate decision--with financial gain the bottom line. If so, that plan didn't quite work, as "More American Graffiti" failed to catch on with its target audience, mostly due to the fact it reflects not the 1960s but TV sitcoms derived from '60s nostalgia. The Ron Howard and Cindy Williams segment plays like a "Happy Days" rerun with bad language, however Charles Martin Smith's Vietnam episode is vividly captured--and the idea of him trying to blow off his own arm in order to get back home says more about the war than "The Deer Hunter" did in three hours. Paul LeMat has some good scenes flirting with a pretty Swede, while Candy Clark kicks around as a kooky hippie. The film, produced by George Lucas, is full of colorful distractions: multi-image cinematography, constant period music on the soundtrack and lots of overacting. Unfortunately, nothing can distract from the laziness of the writing, nor from the film's somewhat tiring concept--each story takes place on a different New Year's Eve--which is a gimmick, nothing more. The episodes aren't shaped with much cleverness, and the film is rather insensitive and preconceived. ** from ****
I'm guessing a lot of folks that have complained about the split screen
in MAG kid of missed yet another bit of cleverness that seemed to fly
over the heads of a lot of viewers.
Each section (year) is shot in a different manner to make a secondary visual comment. The Vietnam stuff is all shot on 16mm, hand-held and grainy as hell to simulate the stuff we were watching on the nightly news back then.
Milner's sequences are shot in super widescreen, Debbie's stuff is split screen, sped up, slowed down - your basic "statement" crap from the late 60's and Ron Howard's happy home life is shot with the over-lit, over-tailored feel of a "mainstream" comedy ala Doris Day/Bob Hope circa 1965.
Personally, I found it amusing.
Like Texasville, The Two Jakes and, before long, Evan Almighty, More American Graffiti is one of those sequels to that most people not only didn't want but don't know even exists: certainly George Lucas seems happy to pretend it doesn't (it's conspicuous by its complete absence in the otherwise comprehensive 78-minute documentary on the DVD for the original film), a fate not even Howard the Duck or The Radioland Murders share among his oeuvre. No Richard Dreyfuss, and Ron Howard is little more than a cameo but the rest of the original cast are all present and correct even an unbilled Harrison Ford turns up as a traffic cop while Scott Glenn, Delroy Lindo and Rosanna Arquette provide the "they were around that long?" factor in the supporting cast. Yet the result is even more of a mixed bag than the original, with writer-director Bill L. Norton separating his main characters over four different New Year's Eves with wildly varying results: Paul Le Mat has now graduated to drag racing, perhaps the least cinematic sport ever invented, Cindy Williams and Ron Howard get mixed up in student riots, Candy Clark's hippie chick finally gets the message about her loser guitarist boyfriend while, in by far the best part of the film, Charles Martin Smith's Terry the Toad is doing everything he possibly can to get out of Vietnam. Shot in multiple aspect ratios from 1.33:1 to 2.35:1 and with some imaginative and often amusing split-screen work, the execution is often better than the material and it's more entertaining than you might expect, but there's little of the resonance of the original.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"More American Graffiti" is certainly an ambitious film. Sadly it doesn't
live up to the original though it does have some fine moments. I think the
problem is in the story structure. We see a day (New Year's Eve) in the
of the familiar characters (sans Richard Dreyfuss who had blossomed into an
Oscar winning star) in the years 63, 64, 65, 66. The story jumps back and
forth all over the place. The first two stories, one with dragster John
Milner at the race track and falling in love, and the Toad on tour in
Vietnam desperately trying to get himself sent home are well done and the
best stories. The problem is that we know at the end of the first film that
both these characters are going to die. So you find yourself distracted as
you wait to see if this is the moment. (Thankfully those moments are never
shown though there is a haunting final moment with Milner where you know
what is going to happen on the other side of the hill). But the last two
stories involving hippie Candy Clark and her friends, and then the troubles
marraige of Ron Howard and Cindy Williams (where they fight the WHOLE
are singular failures.
Still the movie has its virtues including another great rock soundtrack and some nice cameos (especially Harrison Ford). So give it a look but don't expect for "More" to be more then the original.
There was no way More American Graffiti was going to be a great film. It was following up one of the most popular movies of the 70's. George Lucas was barely involved in the production. It had a messed up story that took place on 4 seperate New Years Eves. Considering all the things working against it, I suppose it's not all that bad. There are some great scenes, but there's also an equal amount of bad scenes. John Milner's story is fairly entertaining. Toad's Vietnam story is a lot of fun to watch. But the other two stories are mediocre at best. I guess you can say half of the movie works, and the other half doesn't. Parts of the film are very funny. The highlights being Toad's attempts to get out of the Vietnam War, and Harrison Ford's cameo as a traffic cop. As a huge fan of the original American Graffiti, I got some enjoyment out of seeing all the characters again. But for most people, More American Graffiti will probably feel like a waste of time.
First off, you can not expect a sequel to excel. We get lucky sometimes
but usually they are either totally lame or they fall into some sort of
formula hellhole. This film, as many many reviewers have pointed out,
does have flaws. Most films do. It is not that different in structure
from the original either, following different story lines with
different characters, albeit in different years rather than in the same
night. The Vietnam sequences with Terry the Toad and Little Joe from
the Pharohs gang are the best part of the movie. They could almost have
made a single full-length sequel following that story line. A lot of
reviewers liked the Milner sequences more than the Debbie sequences. I
sort of go the other way around. I thought the Milner storyline was
weak and there just wasn't much there. Maybe the hippie sequences were
more familiar to me, but I related to that and thought most of it was
hilarious. They could have dropped the entire other sequence as well
... it just labored to tell their story against a backdrop that was
much bigger than they were.
Also liked the cameo by Falfa, Harrison Ford.
Anyway, maybe someone will come back and make the rest of the Terry-the-Toad in Vietnam story. Feel the same way about D-Day "whereabouts unknown" in Animal House. There's a movie there waiting to be told.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really don't think producer George Lucas didn't really set out to
make such a horrible sequel as "More American Graffiti" turned out to
be. But in retrospect it was the first crack in his then-seemingly
impenetrable armor. Coming straight off the huge success of "American
Graffiti" and produced basically at the same time as "Star Wars", this
film was the first that Lucas successfully took away from Coppola
without having to bother directing it himself. The result is typical
Lucas -- far more interesting in terms of its structure and the way
it's edited than the actual material. The writer/director Bill Norton
has been allowed to use a variety of different screen ratios and split
screens to produce odd associations in the images. While it's
interesting to see ironic juxtapositions of the 4 story lines, the
style ultimately only epitomizes the fractured nature of the film
Lucas' brilliant original film was all about a group of friends on the archetypical "last big night" before school ends and Kurt (Ron Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are supposed to go off to college. One thing that made that film work, despite the fact that it's very episodic, is that you had the core characters together at the beginning and they come back together at the end. There's a disposition of time, like in Nick Ray's "Rebel Without a Cause" where a certain period of time becomes very elastic and takes on more meaning than such a specific time really would in actual life, but everything takes place in a static space. "More American Graffiti" is basically the opposite -- the space is very dynamic, with Toad (Charles Martin Smith) off in Vietnam, his former girlfriend Debbie (Candy Clark) partying with hippies in San Francisco, Steve and Laurie (Cindy Williams) involved in student protests in Berkeley, and John Miler (Paul Le Mat) drag racing on the semi-pro circuit. In a contrived meeting early in the film all the principles are brought together to watch John race, but after that the threads don't come back together and weave apart the way they do in the original. Instead they split off and we follow the characters through about 3 years' of time, just seeing various events on New Years Eve in what seems to be 1967, 68 and 69. It's easy for the audience to become confused, and I think it's fair to say that we do. While the original film seemed to condense important events and rites of passages into unreal theatrical time that produced an experience of nostalgia even for those who never experienced those events, this sequel drags and stretches the few plot points from the epilogue of the original and attempts to make them into a coherent film.
The best parts of the movie to me are the ones with Candy Clark in SF and Charles Martin Smith in Nam. Some of the jokes do fall flat but the style of those sections is interesting and they form a neat contrast with each other. A good movie could maybe have been made if these parts were just a bit better, and if the other parts weren't such a drag. Speaking of drag racing, the whole plot with Milner talking to a foreign exchange student was really lame, unfunny, and throwing in Mackenzie Phillips for a cameo didn't help at all. It was just another contrived moment, like when they briefly explain why Curt isn't in the movie because he's already in Canada. Instead Laurie just has another brother who is basically identical to Curt but has a different name and is now played by a very boring actor. There's a black kind of satire to some of the Vietnam stuff, very similar to what I would imagine Lucas and John Milius' original idea for "Apocalypse Now" would have been like. And there's some of that manic fun in the San Francisco scenes that made the first movie fun. But still along with that fun stuff, you have the rest of the movie dragging it down, as if anyone wants to see Steve and Laurie argue in their horrible suburban abode as if they were auditioning for a Spielberg movie about divorce and child abandonment. I think even if those parts of the movie weren't so painful, it still wouldn't really be comparable to the first movie because there's no closure and no sense of coming back together or of anybody having learned anything. It just sort of ends at the point when they ran out of money or something, a cheap freeze frame imitation of "Two-Lane Blacktop" and so many better films.
Like the original however, this film has a great soundtrack of period hits that is probably worth owning for its own sake and almost makes the movie itself palatable. The performances by Country Joe and the Fish are great, and Scott Glenn all duded up as a hippie in love with Candy Clark is a sight to see -- I wonder if even back then he had to use a wig? I couldn't possibly recommend this movie, and yet it has some small affection in my heart because I love the original so much. Every couple of decades I guess I have to give this movie a try just to make sure that it's really as worthless as I remember it being. It's a party killer but it's something that every fan of "American Graffiti" or George Lucas in general will want to see at least once or twice. It shows how a lot of effort can go into something and it can still turn out pretty half baked. It makes you reflect on how much of a miracle it is that Lucas actually made such a good movie as "American Graffiti" in the first place, as if all the elements were in place and all the appropriate gods had been placated. Unfortunately such was not the case for this film or for Bill Norton.
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