September 03, 1979 12:00 PM

American Graffiti launched director George Lucas into Star Wars and its cast of little-knowns into big-time TV and movies. Though Lucas oversaw rather than directed this time, most of the cast (notable exceptions: Richard Dreyfuss and Suzanne Somers) return to carry the tale from the ’50s into the turbulent ’60s. Ron Howard and Cindy Williams are struggling with changing politics and roles as husband and wife. Mackenzie Phillips and Candy Clark are communing with rock and drugs in San Francisco. Paul Le Mat is racing dragsters and “The Toad,” Charlie Martin Smith, is soldiering in Nam. Their stories intercut over four consecutive New Year’s Eves. Sometimes director B. W. L Norton’s arty techniques work—parallel scenes on a split screen, for instance—but often they scramble the action and dilute the impact. Still, the acting by both second-timers and newcomers is strong, the script is perceptive and the music again perfectly evokes the era. More American Graffiti is truly more, and not just another sequel. (PG)

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