Porky's - Blu-ray Review

'The narrative is a clear second to any opportunities the writer and director sees to cram in another dirty joke'.

Many people will have “their” teen film that spoke to them when they themselves were a teenager. For those who grew up in the seventies it might be American Graffiti or Animal House; those whose teenage years happened in the nineties will more than likely be American Pie fans. For many who went through their teenage years in the early eighties, Porky’s is likely to be the teen comedy with which they identified. Not having been a teenager in the eighties, the problems within Porky’s are unfortunately too glaring to either forgive or overlook.

What can be said for writer and director Bob Clark’s film is that the primary aim throughout is clearly to provide crude, sexual humour, and in that sense Porky’s has to be seen as something of a success. From its opening erection gag, Clark's script and direction lets you know that the laughs here are going to be unashamedly crass and vulgar. There will be times where you’ll find yourself laughing, even if it’s despite yourself: an X-rated precursor to Bart Simpson’s prank calls to Moe’s Tavern throughout the nineties is a particular juvenile highlight.

But no film can get by on naughty language and nob jokes alone, and Clark’s reliance on the comedy element undoubtedly leads in part to Porky’s’ downfall. Whilst there are laughs that hit home, there are also a great many that don’t, either through feeling stale, predictable, mean-spirited, or a combination of all three. Clark clearly believes Porky’s is a much funnier film than it actually is, and this misplaced arrogance comes through again and again in the finished product.

Away from the humour, things get even patchier. The central group of high school students are never memorable enough, composed as they are from thinly written generic teenage characters or one-joke stereotypes - out of “Meat” (Tony Ganios) and “Pee Wee” (Dan Monahan), one is well endowed in the trouser department whilst the other is teased for his supposedly tiny manhood. I’ll leave you to work out which is which. The plot itself, revolving around the group initially trying to gain access to the titular nightclub and then wanting revenge on proprietor Porky (Chuck Mitchell) for humiliating them, is picked up and dropped as Clark sees fit, the narrative a clear second to any opportunities the writer and director sees to cram in another dirty joke.

What perhaps shows up Porky’s most of all as the sub-par teen film it is are the elements that have aged least well. The chauvinistic tone adopted throughout feels incredibly dated, not only in comparison to modern standards but also when compared to contemporaries of Porky’s. Placed alongside a film like Grease, released only four years earlier and itself not exactly balanced in its gender representation, Porky’s comes across as uncomfortably backward in its approach to women. The sole attempt at a serious story - a subplot involving the bullying of Jewish student Brian (Scott Colomby) by Tim (Cyril O'Reilly), a racist friend of the main group with underlying issues of his own - is arguably the weakest element of the whole film. Compare this to the skillful handling of ideas not all that different in John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club a few years later, and Clark’s film simply falls flat.

Comparisons such as these are arguably at least a little unfair, as it’s already been recognised that Porky’s is first and foremost a sex comedy made with low-brow humour in mind. But in comparison to other teen films that have come both before and since, Porky’s feels like the puerile, doltish sibling, happy to laugh at its own jokes even if nobody else finds them all that funny.

Porky's is released on UK Blu-ray and Blu-ray Steelbook on Monday 16th June 2014.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment