****/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B+
starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charlie Martin Smith
screenplay by George Lucas and Gloria Katz & Willard Hyuck
directed by George Lucas
by Jefferson Robbins The skeleton key to George Lucas's American Graffiti isn't in its setting--the cruising culture of exurban southern California, 1962, as witnessed by young participants with the '50s at their back and Vietnam ahead. Instead, it's disassembled and scattered throughout the text, oblique until it becomes obvious. There's the front-seat monologue recited by Laurie (Cindy Williams) for the benefit of her drifting boyfriend Steve ("Ronny" Howard): "It doesn't make sense to leave home to look for home, to give up a life to find a new life." It sounds like her own reverie, but in fact she's quoting an offscreen speech by her college-bound brother Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), who earlier in the film has a hushed alleyway talk with the "cool" teacher (Terence McGovern) who washed out of an artsy New England school and came back to shape young minds in his diesel-scented hometown. This teacher's name, as it happens, is Mr. Wolfe. It's not so much that you can't go home again as that home changes under your very feet. The instinct to cling to its first incarnation--Curt's fondling of his old school locker, John Milner's (Paul Le Mat) continued mingling with high-school kids at roughly age twenty--is really a hope that you'll find something just as valuable in the wider world you know you must face.