1/13/11

Retro Face Off: Porky's vs. American Graffiti



Both Porky's and American Graffiti depict a day in the life of a group of teenagers growing up in semi-small town America during the 1950s.  Both have essentially no plot other than following around these teens and observing their antics and interpersonal conflicts.

American Graffiti is heralded as a classic, and boosted the careers of Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Suzanne Somers, Richard Dreyfus, McKenzie Phillips and Ron Howard - not to mention director George Lucas.  It currently has a 7.6 IMDb rating.  In stark contrast, Porky's is considered juvenile crap and didn't spawn a single career other than Kim Cattrall.  It gets a paltry 5.8 on IMDb.

So the Face Off has already been won on IMDb with American Graffiti emerging as the victor by a wide margin. But, here's my two cents: I think Porky's is the better movie.  Yeah, that's right.  Porky's is better.  Here's why.


I honestly think the acting in Porky's is better than in American Graffiti.  This sounds blasphemous, but, c'mon, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams and McKenzie Phillips aren't exactly great actors.  Sure, Richard Dreyfus gives a good performance, but that's about it.  Go back and watch Porky's with an open mind - you'll see there's some decent acting going on.

There's a racial issue played out in Porky's between the new Jewish kid, Brian, and the abused bully, Tim.  The conflict actually doesn't seem forced or preachy.  The way the gang stands behind their friend, Tim, even though they know he's in the wrong seems so realistic.  American Graffiti never makes an attempt at anything too controversial - it's too busy basking in its own "1950s-ness".

The soundtrack to Porky's is a little more original, a little less "obvious" than American Graffiti's.  Graffiti's track list seems like a Time-Life collection of The Greatest Hits from 1953; whereas, the Porky's selection seems to have more thought put into it.  In other words, with Graffiti you get 1950s no-brainers like "At the Hop" and "Louie, Louie" (yawn).  With Porky's you get "Lovesick Blues" and "Ebb Tide".

The fact of the matter is, Porky's is often just too crass and tasteless to ever dream of garnering critical praise.  The infamous shower scene alone guaranteed this film wouldn't receive praise from a single critic.  But, in my mind, it's no more crass and tasteless than real teenagers.  This wasn't comical camp like that in Screwballs or Hardbodies; this was pretty realistic teenage stupidity.

And lastly, I'll say this: Show Porky's to a group of your friends and co-workers, and I'll guarantee they'll laugh their asses off and be entertained from beginning to end.  Whereas, I'm not so sure the same can be said about American Graffiti.  Movie critics may give it a "standing O", but I'm thinking average schmoes will probably just yawn.  IMHO American Graffiti is just a 110 minute Happy Days episode.

What say you? Am I way off base here?  Which movie should win the Face Off in your humble opinion?  I'd be curious to hear your opinions.

21 comments:

  1. I could not agree more. I've always wanted to like American Graffiti for all the reasons it's critically praised. But my gut says no, I'm bored. Porky's is not only, as you say, more entertaining, but yes, it strikes as being more sincere. And I never really noticed the distinction between soundtracks, but that alone should convince anyone.

    Not to blow my own horn, but I recently wrote a tidy little essay on Porky's and why it is instrumental in my own sexual development: http://bit.ly/fXKkIm

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am with you, Gil. My thing is rewatchability. If I had both movies sitting in front of me right now, Porky's would be in the VCR, American Graffiti would be regifted next Christmas.

    My theory on why Graffiti is the higher ranked movie relates to the perception of adolescent behavior in the 50's. Graffiti is how our parents saw us acting as a teen, Porky's is how we really acted as a teen. Graffiti is innocently crusin' the strip and possibly trying to score alcohol. Porky's is trying to catch T and A around every corner and getting laid. The family friendly movie always gets the higher rating.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you are comparing apples and oranges here because the movies, while both set in roughly the same era, are really about the era in which they were made. American Graffiti came out in the early 70s when everyone was hung over from the chaos of the 60s and yearned to look back at a simpler time. Hence, the plotlines are simple and maybe a bit corny. Porky's came out in the early 80s when teen sex romps were all the rage. Porky's is more overtly comical, so if you are looking for a bawdy comedy, it works better than Graffiti. I disagree about the prejudice storyline though. Given the silliness of the rest of the movie, this lone serious plot thread feels clunky and out of place. Frankly, I don't think I could sit through either movie today.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I never even considered these two in the same ballpark. I've watched American Graffiti dozens of times, but only seen Porky's once. Yeah, it was funny, but it didn't seem real to me the way AG did. Even though I was a teen in the 80s, AG seems much more in line with how life was in my small town. Porky's was not realistic at all. AG had the yearning to leave, the desire to stay, the "what am I going to do with my life" that all make it more touching to me. In fact AG will be in my 50 Greatest Movies that I'm doing this year.
    RetroHound.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh come on now. This is anti-snob snobbery. The critics got it absolutely right this time. American Graffiti is a warm, human, funny and beautifully-filmed movie. Porky's is cranked out for a quick buck, disposable crud.

    ReplyDelete
  6. paradiddle - It probably was cranked out for a quick buck, but that really says nothing about whether it's good or not. Dickens could write a book in five days, and I could spend 10 years on one, and Charles' would be better.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'll also add that Bob Clarke, the writer director of Porky's, waw no slouch. This is the same guy responsible for A Christmas Story and Black Christmas. He's certainly done a lot of crap, but it shows he was capable of quality work.

    ReplyDelete
  8. May I choose option (C) and opt for Repo Man?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree you can crank out art quickly ... if you're an artist. I'm going to stand by my bold, risky statement and say that American Graffiti is a better movie than Porky's.
    AND "2001: A Space Odyssey" is better than "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" – that's right, I said it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I also say apple and oranges. Porky's is about teenage guys wanting sex with some subplots about racism and shitty parents. American Graffiti is about coming of age and what people (both sexes) are going to make of their life. Porky's is set in '54, AG in '62. Yet Porky's never really *feels* like '54. It feels like early '80s trying to imagine what the '50s was like. On the other hand, AG totally feels like the early '60s all the way through, in every scene.

    AG is on of my all time favorite movies because it is so good. The acting from everybody is perfect for the movie. You also mentioned laughing your ass off about Porky's. Perhaps, but that's because it was meant to be a crass sex comedy. AG was not. I laughed hard at the "tallywhacker" scene when I was in my senior year of high school. No that I'm older, I get a far bigger kick out of Toad smashing his scooter into the trash can (which wasn't scripted), or the drunk saying "her name wasn't Idy, though, and it wasn't in a flood," or Hank the goofy Moose lodge guy saying "this place is for fun." The whole movie looks like a lot more fun than the overzealous "look how crazy we '50s teenagers are" Porky's.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've always preferred Porky's, if only because it was the first "dirty" movie I ever saw. (Johnny Dangerously followed close behind.)

    And I'll second what Gillian, who commented before me, said about Bob Clark. I was watching a documentary on Clark a few months back, and he said that without the success of Porky's, he never would have gotten the studio go-ahead for A Christmas Story.

    Of course, one could argue that without American Graffiti there would be no Star Wars, but I find that incredibly hard to believe. Star Wars would have happened somehow.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sorry, not Gillian, Gilligan. :D

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ha ha, I'm most certainly agreeing with regularjoe! Seen both AG & P only once and liked well enough, but totally loved RM...

    kate v, without the success of American Graffiti Star Wars most certainly wouldn't have happened! I read the most excellent book "Making of Star Wars: Definitive Story Behind Original Film" (ISBN 0345477618) a couple years ago and you wouldn't believe how little the studio believed in the project. Go check it out, it is EXCELLENT read if you want to get a behind the scenes look on the making of the movie!

    ReplyDelete
  14. The highest praise I can give any flick is that it makes me truly sad to see it end because it's taken me to a place I'd like to stay in longer than the running time permits. AG is one of a handful of flicks I can say this about & even though I had a good time watching Porky's, I've never wished I could spend more time there.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I agree Apples and Orangutans. Same era, but one is speaking from the heart, and the other from the libido. Both good, neither perfect. I heard that the studio hated (or maybe the test audience) AG, until the music track was added and then *bing!*
    Great read tho, comments too.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Although I enjoyed "Porky's" when it was originally released, I would much rather watch "American Graffiti", which has never made me yawn.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Enjoyed both, but preferred Hollywood Knights to both. HK probably remains my single favorite "50's/60's era high school adventures" movie. Go Newbomb!

    ReplyDelete
  18. One movie beats both: DAZED AND CONFUSED

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yep, Apples and Oranges.

    "Graffiti," was done by George Lucas, the man who would go on to do Star Wars I II & III, as well as Howard the Duck and Crystal Skull.

    Porkies was, well, Canadian.

    'Nuff said?

    ReplyDelete
  20. American Graffiti all the way

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ha, trev, I was wondering if anyone would mention Hollywood Knights! One of my personal favorites also.

    As far as Porky's vs American Graffiti, I agree with a couple others - they're completely different movies.

    ReplyDelete