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Porky’s (1982)

by on 2012/07/06

“Nobody who plays like that plays for me.”

* *

Porky’s was a popular phenomenon in its day, and the highest-grossing Canadian feature to date. In fact — dommage Bon Cop Bad Cop! — it still is when you adjust for inflation. Which is a shame, really, for I can’t think of a crasser, dumber, more desperate debacle, an embarrassment for us to call our own.

Written and directed by Bob Clark — whose Christmas Story is an all-time favourite of mine — it’s based on his observations growing up in the Floridian wilds of America. It’s not entirely without its pros. I can list them in the following sentence. It’s fun to see and hear some familiar actors, and I appreciated the “learning tolerance” subplot.

In every other regard, Porky’s makes something like Meatballs come across as an important work of high art, comparatively speaking.

In Angel Beach, Florida, in 1954, a clique of young men in high school are torn between clumsy attempts to get laid and playing obnoxious practical jokes.

That’s pretty much it.

Except for the various nude scenes which surely account for its popularity.

Okay, nudity notwithstanding . . . my god, what a stupid waste. Stupid people doing stupid things to other stupid people, stupidly.

A significant portion of the movie is devoted to getting revenge on the titular Porky. Why exactly does he deserve a comeuppance? Because he tricked some underage patrons into leaving his bar? Because he didn’t do them the courtesy of taking their money? Because they were disappointed he didn’t provide them with sexual favours? Certainly, a corrupt sheriff smashed two of their car lights, but he was Porky’s brother, not Porky himself.

Of course, reason has no place in this awful wreck. Channelling frat boy logic through actors who look a decade too old for their roles, these are guys made irrational by their hormones. They fight in the school yard, sabotage jock straps, move in slapstick, are unfailingly idiotic, aggressive, and horny, never knowing or learning when to leave well enough alone. It’s a weird collision of American Graffiti, Animal House, and Deliverance.

I’m searching for the right word, like “puerile”, but infinitely stronger. Unfunny and belaboured to the point of fatigue, it makes inappropriate behaviour seem boring. An encounter between a female coach, a male principal, and his staff breaks the limits of credulity, patience, and judicious editing. When the comedic “high point” is a crank call to a waitress, asking after “Mike Hunt”, you know you’re splashing around in a very shallow intellectual cesspool.

With distilled material, selected scenes, and tighter pacing of shots, Clark might have had an edgy, compelling half hour. As it stands, however, the experience remains like listening to somebody tell a vaguely remembered dirty joke. And they’re laughing so hard themselves you can barely make it out. And it takes them almost two hours to see it through.

And when that joke is done, you’ve wound up offending audiences of every possible body type, culture, nationality, political stance, religious belief, sexual orientation, skin colour, social class, and so on.

To its credit, an aforementioned subplot discourages antisemitism, a nobly progressive sentiment for the era. That plea for tolerance, unfortunately, is not extended to other groups. I can imagine Porky’s defenders suggesting those attitudes fit the time, place, and people being portrayed. I’d leave it to the viewer to decide, though I sincerely doubt I’d ever recommend this crap.

Moreover, I find it nearly impossible to grasp this steaming pile is Canada’s “most successful” in any way. What’s Canadian about it, and why would we want to lay claim to it? It doesn’t even function well as an excuse for titillation, and is easily a contender for the worst I’ve ever seen.

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Rated 14A

98 minutes

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