More American Graffiti (1979) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 110 min.
Cast: Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Cindy Williams, Ron Howard, Anna Bjorn, Bo Hopkins
Director: Bill L. Norton
Screenplay: Bill L. Norton
Review published March 31, 2003
All of the gang but Richard Dreyfuss from the original classic nostalgia flick American Graffiti reunites for the completely superfluous sequel. Yep, they're all back, but what's not back is the magic and inspiration, as this tacked-on entry was mostly created to cash in on the wave the original had started while the getting was still good. While More American Graffiti is generally maligned by the original's staunchest of fans, as a film, the only terrible idea was the conception of a sequel to begin with. Unlike most sequels that seek to capitalize on its predecessor's success, More tries to have some integrity by not being a complete carbon copy, making it a stand-alone film with distinction.
The movie is broken up into a vignette format, taking place on New Years Eve over four separate years, from 1964 to 1967. John Milner is still racing cars, this time professionally, as a down-and-out drag racer. Steve and Laurie are now married, but not blissfully, as Laurie wants to have a career while Steve thinks a woman's place is taking care of the kids at home. Teddy is a soldier in Vietnam, trying desperately to get a ticket back home, and willing to do anything to get it. Debbie is living a hippie lifestyle, hanging out with band members, stuck in a dead-end relationship of her own.
Much of the movie is hit and miss, as you'd expect from a film that shifts back and forth from story to story. The only real stand-out comes in Milner's story, and his relationship with an Icelandic beauty that doesn't speak a word of English, but there is chemistry between them that transcends words. It's in this story that the film is able to capture a slice of what made American Graffiti so appealing, simplicity and innocence. The other three stories go for more politically tinged storylines, dealing with Vietnam on both the home and war fronts, including the counter culture hippies that are a result of the desire to drop out of the reality of life for young people in the Sixties.
Perhaps the biggest reason why More American Graffiti is so different lies in the fact that George Lucas' involvement is mostly just as an executive producer, leaving writer/director Bill L. Norton with the chore of putting it all together. It's a surprisingly ambitious movie from someone who has spent most of his career as a television director, and considering the limitations and high expectations, he does a decent job in keeping things interesting. Most interesting is the differences in the aspect ratios in all four stories, although some of the split screen action in the hippie tale gets to be too much of an exercise in technique rather than making things more interesting.
More American Graffiti is not really a must see film, even if you thoroughly loved the first one. In fact, the more you love American Graffiti, the more I'd advise staying away from this needless sequel, as it can only be seen as a letdown across every level. Watch it only out of curiosity, and know that it's a much different sort of film, not really carrying much of the charm you've seen before. Still, for those who are willing to take it for what it is, it's just entertaining enough to keep the interest of most if your expectations are realistic. Even if you do find the story dull, you should have fun watching smaller roles to some later stars like Scott Glenn, Delroy Lindo, Naomi Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Mary Kay Place, and yes, Harrison Ford reprises his role as Falfa.
©2003 Vince Leo