Historical coming-of-age movies tend to portray the era in which they're setalmost always the era in which their filmmakers grew upas the last great age of innocence in American culture. As limited as this might seem, it seldom keeps the best coming-of-age movies from being terrific. Two of last year's most outstanding films, The Ice Storm and Boogie Nights, posited the Watergate scandal and the end of the '70s, respectively, as America's fall from grace. Both were convincing in their presentations, which is part of what makes them great, but they can't both be right. Marketed with the tagline, "Where were you in '62?," American Graffiti, one of the best films of the genre, takes as its golden age the pre-Vietnam, pre-assassination, pre-Beatles '60s, inhabiting that golden age with car-centric California youth culture. Graffiti tells the story of four teenage boys played by "Ronny" Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Paul Le Mat, and Charles Martin Smith (and the boys are the focus, however many meaty roles are given to the actresses) and their varied experiences on the night before two of them, Dreyfuss and Howard, are scheduled to leave for college. Because it's been imitated so often, it's almost impossible to see what an innovative film Graffiti is, from its near-constant rock 'n' roll soundtrack to the closing-credits summation of each protagonist's fate. It's more important, however, to see it as the great film it is, a funny, touching, nearly cliché-free, and thoroughly considered evocation of a time, place, and state of mind. Released just 11 years after the events it depicts (it usually takes about 20 years for nostalgia to set in), the film both captures the enormous societal changes between the early '60s and early '70s and winningly dramatizes the lives of its characters. In honor of its 25th anniversary, American Graffiti has been re-released on video and newly released on DVD. The DVD contains a revealing and nearly feature-length documentary on the film's creation; it also, in keeping with Lucas' questionable tendency to attempt to improve his past work, features a new opening shot that turns a perfectly evocative vision of Mel's Diner into a computer-enhanced postcard. The documentary, a truncated version of which appears on the video, is a nice companion piece to one of the key films of the '70s, a movie that's essential viewing in any form.