At first glance, George Lucas’ American Graffiti seems to be the predecessor to Happy Days: a rose-colored look back at the Sixties and the car centered culture of the time. Surprisingly, what I got when I watched Graffiti was much more Superbad than Happy Days. Every generation has their film, right?
American Graffiti takes place over one long crazy night. It is also the night before high school grads Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) leave to go east to take on their new future in college. As the night goes on, the two of them, along with their friends, both nerdy and cool, find themselves getting into all kinds of trouble. The plot separates into several different stories as the friends go out on their own. We follow along as the teens get some beers, race their hot rods, and pick up chicks in the usual 50’s style.
While most were unknown at the time, of course now we see the star power of this “low-budget” film. Ron Howard (Happy Days, later director), Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters), and Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones, Star Wars), all become basically ginormous stars later in their career. The music also makes it a legendary film, since almost every minute is covered in 50’s and 60’s classics. Director George Lucas’ goal was to remember and have this period of history forever etched in history. I’d say he did that quite well.