After making a pair of entertaining drive-in pictures about the American south, actor-turned-director Max Baer Jr., of The Beverly Hillbillies fame, inexplicably jumped onto the ’50s-nostalgia bandwagon by making a crude ripoff of George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973), even though several copycat pictures had already been released. Baer’s contribution to this disreputable tradition, Hometown U.S.A., starts off innocuously enough, shamelessly replicating scenes of teenagers getting into mischief while cruising down Main Street in hot cars. Then the movie degrades into idiotic sex farce, to the point where the climax seems as if belongs in an entirely different film. Nonetheless, some viewers might find the first hour of the picture more or less tolerable as an homage to Lucas’ nostalgic hit. Set in 1957, Hometown U.S.A. tracks the exploits of three teenagers—nerdy Rodney “The Rodent” Duckworth (Gary Springer), smooth T.J. Swackhammer (Brian Kerwin), and tough Recil Calhoun (David Wilson). Also woven into the mix is a blonde dreamgirl named Marilyn (Pat Delaney), whom Rodney sees driving around town at regular intervals. Is this almost exactly the same premise as American Graffiti? See the use of the word “shamelessly” above. Yet while Lucas’ movie is family-friendly, treating adult themes in such a restrained manner that American Graffiti was rated PG, Baer takes the crude route, earning his movie’s R-rating with vulgar sexcapades. Rodney has dreams in which his classmates cheer while he screws Marilyn. Rodney steals a car and adopts the name “Rod Heartbender,” then squires an awkward girl who turns out to be a freak with a thing for public exposure and taunting bikers. And that’s atop the usual vignettes of juvenile delinquency, with kids pranking cops and stealing hubcaps, all to the accompaniment of beloved ’50s pop songs. Hometown U.S.A. follows a sad spiral from harmlessly stupid to painfully stupid, degrading women and destroying viewers’ brain cells as it slinks along from one derivative and/or dopey scene to the next.
Hometown U.S.A.: LAME