Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Chicken Chronicles (1977)

          The teen-sex romp The Chicken Chronicles is a pleasant surprise for many reasons. First, it’s almost entirely bereft of sleaze—don’t look for nude scenes here—which means that director Frank Simon and his collaborators exhibited great restraint given the exploitive norm of the teen-sex genre. Second, the movie stars the much-maligned Steve Guttenberg, appearing in his first significant movie role, and he gives a charming performance. Third, the script by Paul Diamond, who adapted his novel of the same name, treats female characters with intelligence and respect, which is even more of a rarity in the teen-sex genre than restraint. Yes, The Chicken Chronicles has the usual tropes of cheap pranks played against school officials, nostalgia for a lost era, a wild party, and a young man questing for carnal bliss. Yet in this context, the tropes are enjoyable and organic instead of contrived and trite.
           To be clear, The Chicken Chronicles pales next to, say, American Graffiti (1973). Accepted on its own humble terms, however, The Chicken Chronicles is endearing and fun.
          Set in Beverly Hills circa 1969, the story revolves around senior David Kessler (Guttenberg), a wealthy jock with girl trouble and a rebellious attitude. The rebelliousness manifests as friction with uptight vice principal Mr. Nastase (Ed Lauter), and the girl trouble stems from all the obstacles that David’s beautiful girlfriend, Margaret (Lisa Reeves), puts in the way of consummating their relationship. As the movie progresses, David becomes more and more frustrated because of Margaret, so he acts out in ways that threaten his graduation—no small problem, with the shadow of the Vietnam draft looming over him. Other elements of David’s life include the misadventures of his dorky younger brother, an unexpected relationship with a girl who is wrongly perceived as the school slut, and David’s shenanigans at a fast-food joint owned by the cheerfully vulgar Max Ober (Phil Silvers).
          While none of this material cuts very deep, the specifics of David’s life feel authentic and complete—everything from the upper-crust mom who wires her house with intercoms to the Hawaiian buddy who weeps after flushing his pot stash during a moment of panic. Better still, the way the major female characters develop over the course of the story makes David’s growth believable. (The plot even has some genuinely serious elements, though sexual yearning and tomfoolery occupy center stage.) More than anything, The Chicken Chronicles reminds viewers that movies about adolescence need not be adolescent.

The Chicken Chronicles: GROOVY


Sir Sweetstick said...

this one is a little tricky to characterize, as your comments imply. It's not exactly a "coming of age" movie and it's definitely not a "teen sex comedy". It has some of the elements of a movie like "A Summer Place" without all the melodrama. Given the part about the counter girl whose brother was killed in Vietnam -- which is significant IMO -- this isn't even a straight ahead comedy.

Lj letizia said...

This does not get the credit ot deserves as the film that ushered in the modern teen sex comedy