×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

More American Graffiti

"More American Graffiti" may be one of the most innovative and ambitious films of the last five years, but by no means is it one of the most successful. In trying to follow the success of George Lucas' immensely popular 1973 hit, writer-director B.W.L. Norton overloads the sequel with four wholly different cinematic styles to carry forward the lives of "American Graffiti"'s original cast.

With:
Debbie Dunham - Candy Clark Little Joe - Bo Hopkins Steve Bolander - Ron Howard John Milner - Paul Le Mat Carol Rainbow - Mackenzie Phillips Terry the Toad - Charles Martin Smith Laurie Bolander - Cindy Williams Eva - Anna Bjorn Major Creech - Richard Bradford Ralph - John Brent Newt - Scott Glenn Sinclair - James Houghton Lance - John Lansing Beckwith - Ken Place Teensa - Mary Kay Place Andy Henderson - Will Seltzer Felix - Ralph Wilcox

“More American Graffiti” may be one of the most innovative and ambitious films of the last five years, but by no means is it one of the most successful. In trying to follow the success of George Lucas’ immensely popular 1973 hit, writer-director B.W.L. Norton overloads the sequel with four wholly different cinematic styles to carry forward the lives of “American Graffiti“‘s original cast. Initial returns should be very strong, on title lure alone, but repeat biz looks to be shallow.

While dazzling to the eye, the flirtation with split-screen, anamorphic, 16mm and 1:85 screen sizes does not justify itself in terms of the film’s content. What Norton and producer Howard Kazanjian are attempting, and what a variety of technicians pull off flawlessly, is daring, but ultimately pointless.

There’s a lot going on in “More American Graffiti,” as Norton takes the characters (minus a few exceptions) created by Lucas, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck and advances them two, three, four and five years into their future.

Popular on Variety

Paul Le Mat’s still rooted in the early ’60s, drag-racing and pursuing an Icelandic beauty (Anna Bjorn) with whom he’s no more successful in communicating than he was in the original with Mackenzie Phillips. Charles Martin Smith and Bo Hopkins are assigned to a helicopter unit in Vietnam while Candy Clark and Phillips have gone the flower power route in San Francisco. As expected, Ron Howard and Cindy Williams have married.

Part of Norton’s presumed goal, of course, is to show how the 1960s fractured and split apart, and that the cohesiveness that marked Lucas’ (and the participants’ lives) film is now dissipated, as characters branch out, and in some instances, are snuffed out.

But without a dramatic glue to hold the disparate story elements together, “Graffiti” is too disorganized for its own good, and the cross-cutting between different film styles only accentuates the problem.

Otherwise, Lucasfilm Ltd. Has amassed an extraordinary cast and crew that succeeds in almost snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The aural counterpoint via period recordings that virtually changed the conception of film soundtracks is again employed to excellent, if more downbeat, effect by music editor Gene Finley, supervising sound editor Ben Burt and re-recordists Bill Varney, Steve Maslow and Greg Landaker.

Work of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and the optical coordinators Peter Donen and Bill Lindemann is extraordinary in meshing the four film sizes, which are beautifully handled in effortless segues. Especially noteworthy are the Vietnam sequences, filmed in Central California and almost as impressive as some of the “Apocalypse Now” footage.

Smith tops the performers as the likable klutz unable to get himself wounded and sent home even in the midst of the Vietnam War. Clark carries off her psychedelic scenes with panache and Howard and Williams sparkle as the young marrieds forced to confront a changing society.

Bjorn is terrif as Le Mat’s uncomprehending Venus, and Le Mat himself shows remarkable continuity in characterization, especially after a six-year layoff. Supporting players are uniformly well-chosen with Scott Glenn and Ralph Wilcox very good as rock band members. Mary Kay Place as Bjorn’s girlfriend and Ralph Place as Le Mat’s competitive buddy. Richard Dreyfuss, only cast principal not to return, is sorely missed but Harrison Ford shows up in an unbilled cameo as a motorcycle cop. Phillips, one of the first film’s most delightful characters, gets short shrift in this version.

Rest of the thesping and tech work is all more than acceptable but doesn’t help “More American Graffiti” offer conclusive proof that in the case of sequels less can be more.

Poll.

Related reviews:
American Graffiti

More American Graffiti

Production: Universal/Lucasfilm. Exec producer, George Lucas; Director B.W.L. Norton; Producer Howard Kazanjian; Screenplay B.W.L. Norton; Camera Caleb Deschanel; Editor Tina Hirsch; Art Director Ray Storey. Reviewed at Goldwyn Theatre, BevHills, July 19, '79. (MPAA Rating: PG.)

Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1979. Running time: 111 MIN.

With: Debbie Dunham - Candy Clark Little Joe - Bo Hopkins Steve Bolander - Ron Howard John Milner - Paul Le Mat Carol Rainbow - Mackenzie Phillips Terry the Toad - Charles Martin Smith Laurie Bolander - Cindy Williams Eva - Anna Bjorn Major Creech - Richard Bradford Ralph - John Brent Newt - Scott Glenn Sinclair - James Houghton Lance - John Lansing Beckwith - Ken Place Teensa - Mary Kay Place Andy Henderson - Will Seltzer Felix - Ralph Wilcox

More Film

  • My Zoe

    'My Zoe': Film Review

    There are two films in Julie Delpy’s ambitious, sharply-made but unbalanced “My Zoe.” There’s the scabrous relationship melodrama, about bitter exes sharing custody of a beloved child, which contains the story’s most potent emotions. And there’s the sci-fi-inflected ethical-dilemma grief movie, which houses its most provocative ideas. Both have much to recommend them, not least [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    The Big Lie of 'Richard Jewell' (Column)

    For a man who was so enraged at the administration of Barack Obama that he spent his 2012 Republican Convention speech lecturing an empty chair, Clint Eastwood has made a number of conventional, level-headed — one might even say liberal — political dramas. Films like “Invictus” and “J. Edgar” and “Midnight in the Garden of [...]

  • Oscar Isaac Star Wars The Rise

    Oscar Isaac Has Never Felt Like a 'Star Wars' Insider

    Unlike his “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” co-stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, Oscar Isaac had already established a long and acclaimed acting career before J.J. Abrams cast him as ace X-wing pilot Poe Dameron in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” including standout roles in 2006’s “The Nativity Story” and 2011’s “Drive,” and [...]

  • Les Arcs to Showcase New Projects

    Les Arcs to Showcase New Projects by Jonas Alexander Arnby, Agnieszka Smoczyńska

    Denmark’s Jonas Alexander Arnby, France’s Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and Poland’s Agnieszka Smoczyńska are among up-and-coming directors from across Europe whose latest projects will be presented at the 11th Coproduction Village of Les Arcs Film Festival. This edition of Les Arcs Coproduction Village will showcase a total of 22 European projects spanning 19 countries. [...]

  • Chez Jolie Coiffure

    'Chez Jolie Coiffure': Film Review

    Shortly before the credits roll on “Chez Jolie Coiffure,” a customer in the eponymous hair salon asks her stylist, Sabine, if she has any plans to go home this year. Out of context, this sounds like the kind of standard, empty small talk one often makes while having one’s hair cut: what good movies you’ve [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content