A generation old, but it still seems fresher than some of it
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 04/22/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For me PORKY'S fits into a "1980s memories" theme, subset "films I didn't get to see when new because of my overprotective parents". Well, and I didn't have a license yet and lived 10 miles from the nearest theater. Ehh. I wasn't that into comedies then anyway, and never have been - haven't caught it in the following years either, until just now. The only reason I probably wanted to see this 1982 Bob Clark film at the time was for the nudity. And y'know, that's not a bad reason, because there's a bit of it, including some bush - not all that common at the time, certainly not now. Hey, I'm trying to think like my 16-year-old self, ok?
Anyway what I remember about PORKY'S from the time is that it got awful reviews, but made a heckuva lot of money. All the kids in my school seemed to be talking about it, and I felt left out for a while. It was far from the first raunchy-teen-sex comedy of course, in fact it wasn't even the first mainstream one (I guess perhaps that was ANIMAL HOUSE?), but it certainly helped popularize the genre and descendants like SUPERBAD remain popular today. Based somewhat on writer-director Bob Clark's recollections of growing up in Florida in the mid-1950s, PORKY'S for those who don't know is the name of a roadhouse and strip club/whorehouse a few miles from the high school that our cast of miscreants attends. Pretty much all the stereotypes are in place - the dorkish virgin Pee Wee (Dan Monaghan), jock Meat (Tony Ganios), bad boy Tommy (Wyatt Knight), etc. There are issues of bigotry - one of the guys who slowly becomes part of the crowd is Jewish, and another guy is a bigot; issues of family - the bigot's dad is the REAL bigot and a complete scumbag who bullies his son; and issues of inadequacy and peer pressure (Pee Wee worrying about the size of his manhood and getting laid). All of them are dealt with in a fairly juvenile and smarmy way, but not as obnoxiously as I expected, and the film overall has a rather good-hearted feeling to it, with the characters eventually putting aside their differences to get back at Porky, the owner of the eponymous roadhouse who gypped them all out of some money and pride.
There's no question that Porky's is a rude and crude film, from start to finish, but it's important perhaps to note that a couple of rudest and crudest characters are girls - Wendy (Kaki Hunter) and Honeywell (Kim Cattrall, the only cast member who became a real star) who can more or less hold their own with the guys. Sure overall it's a sexist and primative film, but it mirrors the kids and never either condones - or rejects - their behavior. And the ending when the guys get their revenge feels like pure fantasy, so I'm not sure exactly why critics at the time so excoriated the thing - it's a male fantasy film of course where women are mostly treated as sex objects, but it's also one in which it's clear that the women have a certain amount of power - and in which brains end up beating brawn any day, as the picked-on Jewish kid Schwartz ends up more or less the hero of the day. The only really serious issue I had was in the Jerry Lewis-like Pee Wee, who is just so good-natured about being continuously picked on that he started to feel cartoonish. The dialogue strikes me as pretty spot-on, the location work (it was mostly shot in the Miami area) is nice, the cars are awesome, and for me at least it's nice to see a portrait of the 50s where the people are every bit as crude and low as they are today. People weren't all church-going saints in the Eisenhower era, however much that stereotype still exists.
A pleasant surprise for me overall. No great shakes, but certainly no worse than a lot of the films that have imitated it over the years. This DVD is totally bare-bones though the transfer is decent enough. I guess if you're a big fan you'd want to get the set with the two sequels, which I haven't yet seen myself. It's fascinating to consider the career of Bob Clark, best known for this film, A CHRISTMAS STORY, the Sherlock Holmes film MURDER BY DECREE, and the proto-slasher flick BLACK CHRISTMAS. What a varied filmography the guy had."