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Franchise Friday: ‘Porky’s’

The Franchise Friday tradition lives on! And the 2016 season opener begins with the 80s sex comedy “classics”: Porky’s, Porky’s II: The Next Day, and Porky’s Revenge. You’re excited, aren’t you?

Each week, we’ll pose a different question pertaining to the movie. Simple question, short answer. Let’s get to it!

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May 6, 2016: Porky’s (1981)

Is Porky’s just a sex romp, or underneath all that skin, does it have a beating heart?

Johnny: Bob Clark’s Porky’s is probably the most famous of all teen sex comedies, at least to a particular generation of videohounds. These movies, and the subsequent films that were influenced by or directly ripped off from them, are generally thought of as all balls and no heart. And considering the most memorable and classic scenes from most of them, that reputation is not entirely unfounded. From peepholes to panty raids, the scenes you remember from films like Porky’s, The Last American Virgin, Revenge of the Nerds, et al., all revolve around one thing. The better ones, though, have other ideas swimming just below the surface. Nerds, of course, in between voyeurism, pranks and Pis, promotes individuality and acceptance. The Last American Virgin, well, no teen sex rave-up ends on more of a down note than that movie. And Porky’s, famous for its junk-getting-yanked-through-a-peephole bit, turns its serious side to racism and anti-Semitism. Of course, racism punctuated southern small town life in the 1950s, so you know it’d be going on. But the movie could easily have ignored it in favor of more sex, more nudity, more pranks, more anything. But I like that they included something so realistic and pervasive, but also let some of the anti-Semitic characters come around and even bro down with the kids they were picking on at the outset. Porky’s. Young, dumb and full of…heart.

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Joanna: Porky’s. It’s all in the name, isn’t it? Dirty, cheap, and funny. You know, just a crew of old-school 50s teens looking for a raunchy good time. And it certainly pays off in more than one way. On the surface, it’s uber-silly and sexual. But there’s a weird poignancy, too. Let’s not forget the bigot-turned good guy who stands up to his abusive father bit, right? That was unexpected, and added a level of sweetness and/or meaning to the characters. Unnecessary, sure—but all the same different for this type of flick.

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That being said, the irrefutable tried and true core of the film is the characters. Sure, we largely focus on the boys—but the girls are awesome sports when it comes to the peeping toms and their subsequent antics. And in the end, everyone works together to take revenge on the nasty strip joint and its patrons at Porky’s. Heck, even the Angel Beach cops and teachers get involved. After all, Porky’s been pissing on the teenage fantasy for years! So, the town rallies—and so do we. Why? Because we openly like these characters. We are/were them; we wanted to be them; or, in the very least, we want to be friends with them. So, while the Porky’s premise appeals to one particular organ, its lasting effect pulls at another—THE HEART, you perverts.

May 13, 2016: Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983)

Yep, the first one had heart. So–how does The Next Day stack up?

Johnny: A film like Porky’s, whose most famous scenes revolve around peepholes and coital barking, could not be blamed if it spawned sequels that dropped the more emotional elements and focused solely on the sex gags. In fact, that’s the way these kinds of franchises generally devolve. But no way Bob Clark is letting the gang go out like that. In Porky’s II: The Next Day, we see the guys and gals of Angel Beach at odds with an even bigger menace. This movie is basically the drama club vs. the KKK. Inexplicably, almost everyone is involved in the school’s Shakespearean festival, which is directed by Pee Wee’s mother. A local reverend, a bunch of his cronies, the Klan and Ms. Balbricker are out for blood and want this lascivious production stopped.  And where most franchises would up the boobs and sex and pranks in the sequel, I’d almost say this one pulls back a little. Sure, the initial plot involves Pee Wee trying to provide a girl for his friends to…gang bang. But after that comes to a close (replete with the tides turning against ol’ Pee Wee, in a callback to the Cherry Forever prank in the first film), the guys are not as focused on sex. The sequel also fleshes out one of its female characters for the first time (instead of just showing her flesh). In the first film, Wendy is the sure thing that Pee Wee finally scores with as the credits role. The Next Day, she’s his girlfriend and a legitimate part of the gang and an integral part in the plot that hatches to defeat the reverend and the KKK. Talking to Pee Wee, Wendy relays that she’s not as loose as her reputation would have you think. She’s given depth and power. She was a good character to begin with, and even better with some actual layers.  Sure, there’s no actual Porky’s in Porky’s II, but there’s still a lot of heart.

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Joanna: Talk about one interesting little franchise. After watching the follow-up, I’m now convinced Porky’s only wears the veneer of a sex comedy. If the original had sentiment and meaning, then The Next Day ups the stakes. In short, the sequel proves these guys are really just a crew of goofy vigilantes looking to seek vengeance on social wrongdoers. And in this particular tale, our dudes go after dirty politicians and the KKK. That’s kind of … weird, right? And it works only because the tone of the film is in fact its camouflage—a raunchy teen romp. But really, it’s a jaunty blend of penis jokes, teen relationships, Shakespeare, religious zealots, child molesters, and naked clansmen. Like I said, it’s WEIRD. Not only is Bob Clark (R.I.P.) owed more praise for his eclectic filmography, but the man is explicitly deserving of more attention for his delightfully bizarre take on the sex comedy.

And how did Kaki Hunter (Wendy) not become more of a thing in the 80s? I hear she’s now building houses in Utah or something… (here she is now!)

May 20, 2016: Porky’s Revenge (1985)

With Bob Clark’s departure as director, how does Porky’s Revenge fit into the mix?

Johnny: In this third outing, Bob Clark steps out of the director’s chair (I have to assume it was offered to him, and he declined?) and James Komack takes his place. Komack’s filmography is not one that is immediately impressive to me, though he did have his hand as a producer, director and actor in a lot of 60s and 70s TV that is probably sentimental to many (in fact the only credit he has that means anything to me is an episode of The Monkees, of which the 80s reruns were a seminal part of my childhood). Porky’s Revenge certainly has its moments, but a lot of the comedy falls flat—particularly the opening dream sequence that finds naked Pee Wee at graduation. The main plot revolves around the gang promising ol’ Porky they’d throw their basketball game, in order to get their coach out of hot water with him (he owes Porky money). To that extent, it’s the same ol’ Angel Beach crew, always keen to fight some sort of injustice. The plot, though, is a little convoluted…it involves blackmailing a teacher who’s threatening to not let Meat play in the final game (Meat won’t dissect a frog, which really pisses this teacher off). Despite its flaws, the film does kinda round out the trilogy pretty well with graduation and a reconciliation of sorts between the boys and Ms. Balbricker. While definitely inferior to the first two Clark-directed films, it’s a fun enough ride and certainly better than it could’ve turned out. And this revenge is much sweeter than Jaws’…so, there’s that. Plus the soundtrack kicks ass.

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PORKY’S REVENGE, Dan Monahan, Kim Evenson, 1985, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

 Joanna: Let me start by saying this: I have enjoyed every single one of the Porky’s installments. More than I probably should have. But with that being said, this was my least favorite of the bunch.

While it’s both awesome and impressive that the main cast of kids returned for each movie (for the most part), Porky’s Revenge fell a little flat at times. Luckily, the friends upheld their likability and charm (even though Pee-wee and Wendy are broken up)—but the film’s central story was lost on me. What happened to our social justice warriors? Even the original film—while overtaking Porky’s strip joint—had unexpected moments of poignant, non-teen movie feelings. And yet, here too much of the movie relies on its clumsy sex jokes and pranks. There’s a place for that—and certainly a place in a Porky’s movie—but when you come to expect the unexpected tenderness, the lack of it becomes all too apparent.

All the same, the kids did rally for a good cause in one side-story when it came to Miss Balbricker’s love life. After one too many tricks, they reunited her with a long-lost High School love, resulting in one very happy ending for the prudish Coach. That was nice—and felt earnest for the kids.

Another perk? Porky’s Revenge has a killer soundtrack.

Next up: The Basketcase trilogy!

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