Film Review: Porky’s

1981’s Porky’s.

Well, I’ll be darned. I was in the mood for an escapist, raunchy teen comedy, and perhaps 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House aside, there is no other comedy film that is more emblematic of that descriptor, as far as being one of the “firsts” to do it. After some action and horror flicks, it was time for some comedy. And I … actually liked this? Full disclosure: I was expecting to not like this film and be watching it on background as I browsed my phone. Yet. It’s actually much better than the reflection of it I expected given its place in the cultural zeitgeist. I’d never seen it before, and knew nothing about it aside from the iconic, voyeuristic bathroom scene where the boys peep on the girls in the shower.

To backup, the premise of the film, which is set in the mid-1950s (and I don’t know why they did that because other than the vehicles and a mention of former president Dwight Eisenhower, this doesn’t feel like the 1950s at all) is that teen boys looking to get their rocks off at the local strip club, Porky’s, are instead taken for a ride (metaphorically) by the owner and local sheriff. The teens plot their revenge. In other words, it’s a familiar plot for a raunchy teen comedy in that the central driving force of the plot are horny teen boys trying to have sex. Along the way, we get the usual chauvinistic type material, including that peeping time scene, and there’s also quite a few slurs in this. That said (yeah, I know, but you have to roll with it in a film like this; you know what you’re going to get in that regard), what surprised me about the movie is that virtually the entire middle had nothing to do with Porky’s, and in fact, one of the boys who keeps going back to the club to enact his revenge and instead is repeatedly beat up, exists on the peripheral until the climax.

A young Kim Cattrell here.

Rather, the main gist of the film is about a boy, Tim (played by Cyril O’Reilly), who at first seems like a real bigoted jerk — someone you want to write off quickly as a real bigoted jerk. He’s particularly picking on another boy, Brian (played by Scott Colomby), because he’s Jewish. Brian ends up kicking Tim’s butt in an after school fight, but we learn that Tim’s father is not only the source of Tim’s racism and bigotry, but also, he’s physically and verbally abusing Tim. That comes to a head at the school dance when Tim stands up to his dad and befriends Brian. It’s actually oddly touching? Something I didn’t expect to get from this film at all. And I think that’s overall what’s going on here in the film is that there’s some earnest, touching male friendship displayed on the screen. Nobody is actually malicious to their friends. It never crosses that sort of line. More, they stand behind each other.

But all of it does eventually come back to Porky’s and the climax is one of the more satisfying and fun endings to a comedy film I can recall seeing. Instead of going in guns blazing, the kids, along with the sheriff (who is the brother to the kid repeatedly getting beat up) and others, concoct a wild plan to tear down the strip club, trash the corrupt sheriff’s department’s vehicles, and really stick it to Porky by telling him to never come back to their side of the county. It’s great! Thrilling even!

Overall, the film isn’t actually all that funny. I probably chuckled the most at the punchline to why Kim Cattrall’s character was called Lassie, but otherwise. But it was worth watching and satisfying for the male friendships and the fun climax where Porky finally got his comeuppance. Now having seen Porky’s, it’s easy to see how it set the template for virtually every teen comedy going forward. All eat the dinner plate provided by Porky’s, for better or for worse. Like I said, you have to go into it knowing that there’s a certain level of misogyny and awfulness given the time period in which it comes out of, but there’s actually something worthwhile to glean from it all.

Porky’s had it coming.

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