This hilarious, raunchy comedy hit that spawned two sequels takes an unblushing look at teenage adolescence in the 1950’s. It follows the comic misadventures of six high schoolers whose most fervent wish is to find some sexual satisfaction at Porky’s, a notorious honky-tonk strip joint. When they’re ripped off and thrown out by the owner, they plot a revengeful scheme that is truly unforgettable.
eyelights: its level of realism. its silly gags. its PYTs.
eyesores: its limited number of laughs. its lack of significant plot.
“I never seen so much wool. You could knit a sweater.”
When I was a kid, some of my friends kept telling me all about ‘Porky’s’. How they got a chance to see it is beyond me: we were only 10-years-old or so and none of them had older siblings who could have snuck them in or rented a VHS tape for them. Still, they always saw R-rated movies at home. They had “cool” parents.
It sounded like the greatest comedy ever made: everyone was talking about it (it was, after all, the biggest Canadian production at the Canadian box office for something like 20 years!), it was omnipresent in video and convenience stores, and it had that risqué quality you seek out desperately as you’re coming of age.
Sadly, by the time I saw it, I was an adult, and ten years of anticipation meant that it couldn’t possibly live up to all the stories that I’d heard through the years; my expectations were too high. So I found it pleasant enough, but I didn’t laugh nearly as much as I’d have liked. Sadly, it wasn’t titillating enough either.
Still, I keep returning to it time and again, hoping that it will finally work its magic on me.
‘Porky’s’ is set in 1954, in Florida, and it follows a group of high school friends as they find any excuse to see naked female flesh and try to get laid. It’s basically a coming-of-age story set in a time of sexual repression and prejudice, tackling candidly not just sexual freedom but also racism along the way.
Essentially, the picture, which is based on writer-director Bob Clark (of ‘Black Christmas‘ and ‘A Christmas Story‘ fame) own high school experiences is an episodic 98 minutes of gags and raunchy encounters, with the throughline being the group’s attempt to get into the infamous Porky’s saloon and its repercussion.
Frankly, I still find it silly, but not laugh-out-loud funny.
Heck, even the notorious shower scene merely makes me chuckle (it would have been much funnier in the way Clark had originally envisioned it: with Balbricker pulling on Tommy with both legs propped against the wall, hanging off the floor). If anything, it’s the sight of those lovely women that makes the scene for me.
Similarly, the “Lassie” scene in which Coach Brackett finally gets Miss Honeywell into the guys’ locker doesn’t really make me laugh the way it was intended to. But I adore that bit for the way Kim Cattrall strips off her skirt and bares her bottom. It’s so sexy. It’s just a moment, but man is it ever a memorable one!
One of the funniest bits is when Balbricker tries to convince the Principal to round up some of the young men so that she can identify the shower room exhibitionist. The supporting performances are a bit heavy-handed, but watching Balbricker make her request and watching the Principal try to maintain his composure is gold.
One of the most interesting aspects of the picture is that, as much as some might consider ‘Porky’s’ exploitative, we see as much if not more male nudity than female nudity. And the women are hardly taken advantage of – in fact, they are all complicit in the goings on. Maybe it’s just a male fantasy, but they appear to be equals.
I also rather enjoyed the racial undercurrent because it was a product of its time (again, Clark based himself on his own experiences growing up) but, instead of moralizing, the picture subtly indicates that prejudice is not okay by showing us disapproving reaction shots and by making one of the racists change his colours.
Cool stuff, though it’s not especially funny.
Beyond that, there’s really not that much to ‘Porky’s’. The performances are decent for the genre and the story holds together nicely. But it’s not nearly as funny as ‘Animal House’, not nearly as nostalgic as ‘American Graffiti’, not as much fun as ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School‘ and not nearly as raunchy as ‘American Pie‘.
It’s a landmark, and a tremendous success, but satisfaction is not guaranteed.
Date of viewing: May 16, 2016