Universal // 1985 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 28th, 2010
"You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed."
For anyone who ever lived through the torment of high school, John Hughes was like a gift from the movie gods. Although old enough to be the father of the kids he wrote about (well, maybe a really big older brother), Hughes had an uncanny knack for portraying realistic teens without pandering or being cynical. Hughes' characters always had vivid personalities filled with flaws and strengths; in essence, they were a lot like you and me. The director's most popular work, The Breakfast Club, makes its debut in hi-def care of Universal Home Entertainment.
What happens when you put a star athlete, a geek, a shifty outsider, a spoiled princess, and a ditzy loner in the same room together for eight hours?
You get "The Breakfast Club," of course.
An open letter to the dearly departed...
Dear John Hughes:
First off, I want to say that on behalf of the collective movie-going public, we miss you. Maybe not all of us -- after all, there is always someone out there whose heart is so cold it could pass for dry ice -- but, for the most part, I can safely speak for my generation when I say losing you...well, it kinda sucked. You single-handedly gave me some of my fondest movie memories. Weird Science taught me that when it comes to dating, what lies beneath the surface is far more important than the superficialities of this world. Well, that and always wear a bra on your head when you're creating the perfect woman. Also, I regularly quote my favorite Asian stereotype (hey, it was the '80s, so we're a bit more forgiving) by telling people "No more yanky my wanky, the Donger needs food!" And find me a man who doesn't relate to the phrase, "...those aren't pillows!" and I will show you a man who hasn't lived.
Which brings me to what is most likely considered your seminal masterpiece, The Breakfast Club. The movie was made 25 years ago (!), but rings as true now as much as it did then. Funny how time doesn't diminish some things. It's been over 15 years since I was in high school, but the fact remains there are still jocks, losers, dweebs, outcasts, and popular kids roaming the halls of my alma mater (also located in Illinois, just like your fictional Shermer High). In a perfect world, those class structures would come together and try to be open minded about each other's differences, but I fear that will never come to pass when you're dealing with kids at the height of puberty. But hey, Mr. Hughes, you already knew that. In fact, if I had to pinpoint your most impressive attribute, I'd say it was being able to convey exactly what it was like to be a kid in high school. And with The Breakfast Club you'd just about got it right.
I love this movie. I know you had a lot of people tell you that (probably even during your self-imposed exile from Hollywood in the final years of your life), but I really, truly mean it. The Breakfast Club is just a wonderful movie with some great performances. You did a stellar job picking actors who were able to tell your story with conviction and honesty; a rarity in most 'teen movies' these days (two words: American Pie). Anthony Michael Hall is the perfect nerd. Judd Nelson is at the top of his game (and that's really saying something considering where he ended up) as the future criminal with a heart of gold. I'm so glad you got Emilo Estevez over Charlie Sheen as the jock. And Molly Ringwald will always be your greatest find -- her embodiment of snottiness and fragility is a balancing act that's pulled off winningly. Even the smaller roles carry real weight. Paul Gleason is every burned out teacher I've ever had rolled into one contemptuous package. And while many movies of this period tend to feel dated due to hairstyles, music selection, and timely slang, your The Breakfast Club somehow (mostly) escapes these trappings.
John, you did a really great job at growing these character right before our eyes. When they first walk into the detention hall/library, we think we know exactly who they are; just as each character makes similar assumptions about each other. Yet one by one you pull the rug out from under us (and them) to show that deep down inside most kids are exactly alike -- scared, fearful of rejection, and full of promise to those who want to see it. You do a great job of visually showing this metamorphosis with Ally Sheedy's character and her journey from lonely weirdo to cute girl next door. And thankfully, you temper the dramatic, heart-wrenching moments with some wonderfully observant humor (my favorite exchange: Brian: "You wear tights?" Andrew: "No, I don't wear tights. I wear the required uniform" Brian: "Tights.")
So, I just want to say thank you for this movie. Thank you for countless other movies you gave us (yes, I even like to watch the oft-maligned Home Alone around the holidays). I like to think you left Hollywood because -- as all great artists who know the limit of their gifts -- you walked in, said what you had to say, and that, as they say, was that. This movie is as close as you can get to perfect in the teenage comedy genre.
Wherever you are John, don't worry -- we will never forget you.
The DVD Verdict Club
The Breakfast Club is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p HD. This is a highly anticipated catalog release, and Universal has done a very good job at bringing it to Blu-ray. The image looks very good, if not great, with solid color representation and dark black levels. DNR is kept to the bare minimum, and there is a light grain that gives the image a warm 'film' feel. This isn't a pristine print, but considering its age fans should be happy with the way it's turned out.
The soundtrack is presented in English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The good news is this mix is solid and serves the film well; featuring clearly rendered dialogue, effects, and music (if hearing Simple Mind's "Don't You Forget About Me" over the opening narration doesn't make you smile, nothing will). The bad news -- or better put, the not so great news -- is that the mix is mostly front heavy without much of a workout for your rear and side speakers. But hey, this was a comedy from the '80s, not Avatar, so get over it. Also included is a French DTS-HD 2.0 mix, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, plus English, French and Spanish subtitles.
All of the extra features available on this Blu-ray are ports from the previous DVD release. The best is a 12-part documentary that runs approximately an hour and features interviews with everyone from cast members -- Ally Sheedy, John Kapelos (the janitor), Anthony Michael Hall, and Judd Nelson -- plus a few other filmmakers for balance, including screenwriter Diablo Cody, director Michael Lehmann, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High director Amy Heckerling. The doc is a good piece for anyone who wants to learn more about the making of the film, as well as some of its cinematic historical significance. "The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origins of Brat Pack" is a small look at the infamous 'Brat Pack' of the 1980s and what it meant to movies in that decade. Also included is a commentary track from Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall that is mildly informative, but not overly engaging. Finally, there is a theatrical trailer for the film that is sadly full frame (and in pretty poor shape).
The Breakfast Club is not only essential '80s material, but also essential viewing for those of you who remember high school...for better or worse. Universal has done a nice job on this disc and is to be commended.
Owning this classic should be a no-brainer.
Review content copyright © 2010 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R