American Graffiti is a hallmark coming-of-age film that helped launch the career of George Lucas and pave the way for Star Wars. However, a belated sequel to the iconic film is underseen and all but forgotten. More American Graffiti is a trippy jaunt through the turbulent 1960s, contrasting with its predecessor’s idyllic portrayal of America. A far cry from the streets of Modesto, California, the film jumps from San Francisco to Vietnam.
The original film had been a huge hit for Universal. With a budget of less than $800,000, the film became a beloved classic and a huge success, grossing over $140 million. It wasn’t until Lucas and even Coppola declined to direct a sequel for American Graffiti that the studio finally decided to proceed without them (though Lucas did produce). The film, helmed by Convoy director Bill L. Norton, showcased a unique visual style. It used experimental techniques to weave together four distinct storylines.
Continuing the story from the original film, More American Graffiti was released in 1979. Spanning four consecutive New Year’s Eves, this film reunites the many characters from American Graffiti. John Milner (Paul Le Mat) races dragsters professionally. Steve (Ron Howard) and Laurie (Cindy Williams) face the trials of married life and parenthood. Meanwhile, Debbie (Candy Clark) immerses herself in the hippie culture of San Francisco. Finally, Terry the Toad (Charles Martin Smith) contemplates deserting his post in Vietnam. Notably absent is Richard Dreyfuss, who may have been busy. He shot to superstar status with the help of Steven Speilberg in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
More American Graffiti Plays On Adult Themes Rather Than Nostalgia
While the first film plays on the nostalgia of your formative years, the follow-up leans into the troubles of being an adult. More American Graffiti portrays characters experiencing tragic events such as car wrecks and the horrors of war, as well as depicting abusive relationships. As a result, the cheerful atmosphere of the first movie transitions into a contemplative and melancholic tone, evoking a yearning for a simpler time.
More American Graffiti also has bizarre tonal shifts. One moment, we are shown real footage of police beatings and civil unrest, only to be followed up by goofy jokes. The first film coasts on the good vibes of music from The Beach Boys. Meanwhile, the sequel gets dragged down into protest anthems. The film received negative reviews from critics, unlike its highly acclaimed predecessor. Only 20% of critics expressed a positive sentiment based on 10 reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes. The original film didn’t exactly cry out for a sequel in the first place. It’s a shame the studio couldn’t resist a cash grab, but at least the attempt was something starkly different.
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