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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that American Graffiti holds up beautifully for teens. Because it's set in the '60s, there is smoking and loads of drinking. There's a fistfight, some off-screen gunshots, drag racing, a car explotion, and a small amount of profanity ("s--t," "damn," hell"). Teens challenge authority, drink and drive, talk about sex, make out, and there's one shot of a boy's naked backside (in a drive-by mooning).
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What's the story?
AMERICAN GRAFFITI is a coming-of-age dramedy set in Modesto, Calif. Steven (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfus) are leaving for college. Over the course of a long last night, Steven and Laurie (Cindy Williams) resolve to date others, while Curt chases a mysterious blond woman (Suzanne Sommers) in a T-bird. Meanwhile, Steven's friend Toad takes Steven's car and romances the somewhat dim Debbie. Another friend, John Milner, wants to drag race hot-shot Bob (Harrison Ford). Unfortunately, Milner gets saddled with a whiny 13-year-old for the evening (Mackenzie Phillips). Teens tangle with a gang, destroy a cop car, get into another car crash, and consult with DJ Wolfman Jack. With varying degrees of anticipation and fear, the teens leave high school behind.
Is it any good?
An unknown George Lucas, four years before he would make Star Wars, set a standard for teen movies with this exceptional film. The cast is uniformly strong. Most of the young actors are famous now -- Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Sommers, Mackenzie Phillips. And the soundtrack, virtually a greatest hits collection from the era, includes recordings from such early rock legends as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Fats Domino. The songs are beautifully woven into the restless teenage world.
Like the characters themselves, America in 1962 was on the brink of enormous changes, and Lucas captures that momentous feeling tinged with uneasiness in the exceptional American Graffiti. Children may ask, "Was it really like that?"
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.