AIP produced so many exploitation films that captured the trend of the times (or call it "rip-off"), so it is inevitable that all black-cast of "American Graffiti" came out from there. But it is the result of the product that we should care, and though sometimes branded as a clone of that much more famous film, "Cooley High" is in fact as good as George Lucas's. If you claim it is even better, I won't disagree with you.
"Cooley High" gives lots of fun with multi-layered, loosely connected characters living in inner-city Chicago in 1964. Their life at school and impoverished environment is not easy, but the film never depicts them in the negative light as is often shown in other blaxploitation films, and among them the two uproarious, riotous leads played by Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs are excellent. Turman is a bespectaled boy with a dream of becoming a writer, and with his friend Jacobs enjoy his life -- chasing a girl, cutting classes to go to a zoo hanging behind a bus, and having a midnight joy ride. But the last innocent fun turns a tragedy unexpectedly, which adds a very poignant touch to the ending of the film.
Though some claim, probably rightly, that the film's characters seem a bit stereotyped, the humor and fun are never to be dismissed, and those charming moments -- such as Turman and Jacobs (poorly) disguised as cops to get some money from prostitutes, whispering "We take bribes." -- are very funny and will be fixed in your memory. After all, the film has enoumous charms that still appeal universally, and that makes "Cooley High" an all-time classic. And listen to the great Motown soundtrack with the songs like "Fingertips Part 2" or "Dancing in the Street." Highly recommended.
It is a Japanese-made monster film "Godzilla vs the Thing" (aka. "Godzilla vs Mothra") that they are watching in the theater. It was released in USA in 1964.