Don't you forget about Judge Brett Cullum.
Our reviews of The Breakfast Club (published May 23rd, 2000), The Breakfast Club (Blu-Ray) (published July 28th, 2010), The Breakfast Club (HD DVD/DVD Combo Format) (published February 22nd, 2007), The High School Flashback Collection (published September 17th, 2008), and Universal 100th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray) (published November 26th, 2012) are also available.
From Sixteen Candles:
From Weird Science:
From The Breakfast Club:
Rebel Without a Cause immortalized James Dean as America's definition of a cool teenage boy. Because of director John Hughes, Sixteen Candles, and the movies following it, Molly Ringwald will become the embodiment of the American teenage girl (always Pretty in Pink). And no matter how many pounds he packs on, Anthony Michael Hall will always be the immortal skinny geek. Though the '50s created the teenager, it was the '80s and the movies of the "Brat Pack" that defined what a teenager acts like.
The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science are fluffy teen flicks; however, Some Like it Hot, The Philadelphia Story, and The Women were all considered fluffy fun at some point as well. Time will rank the "Brat Pack" movies among the comedy greats, and they will define an era of film that passed all too quickly. The Brat Pack: Movies and Music Collection is a box set of three titles from director John Hughes. Bask once again in their glory! Just remember to put that bra on your head before you watch.
Facts of the Case
• The Breakfast Club
• Sixteen Candles
• Weird Science
First, I need to let you know this set is a double dip of the most mercenary marketing "cash grab" kind. If you bought these titles as part of The High School Reunion Collection, you own the same discs you are going to find inside this new packaging. Each disc even opens with a promotion for the previously released set, not this "new" version. The only thing different is that the movies now come in a groovy three-ring binder, and there is an eight song CD which has many of the memorable tracks from several Hughes films. It's not a new edition, it's not a definitive collection, and even the name "Brat Pack" collection is a little bit misleading.
The term the "Brat Pack" was coined in the summer of 1985 in an article by David Blum for New York magazine. The three movies here were released slightly before the term became widespread, and would probably not be the best representation of the group. If you wanted an ultimate collection of movies by the Brat Pack actors, you would certainly have to include Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire at the very least. Although The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles are good projects to slap the "Brat Pack" moniker on, Weird Science only seems to qualify because it features Anthony Michael Hall. Actors such as Andrew McCartney (Pretty in Pink), Rob Lowe (St. Elmo's Fire), Demi Moore (St. Elmo's Fire), and Mare Winningham (um…St. Elmo's Fire) are not included in the set. The easy answer here is that Universal only owns the distribution rights to the three films included. A more apt title for the three films would be "The John Hughes Teen Comedy Collection," but even that would omit classics like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and Some Kind of Wonderful. The most definitive title would be "The Anthony Michael Hall Plays a Geek Who Pretends to Have a Girlfriend in Canada Collection," because these are the three movies where that statement is true.
All of the titles are excellent portraits of teenagers. The Breakfast Club will probably go down as the true classic, since it seems the most seriously dramatic, but I can vouch that Sixteen Candles and Weird Science are just as insightful even if they seem more lighthearted. Hughes cranked these scripts out in two days each. Hard to believe, because they contain some of the most quotable moments in film history. That is in no small part due to the respective casts, who were encouraged to improvise on the set. The Breakfast Club's most impressive scene, where they reveal things to each other in a circle, was completely ad-libbed. Most of the slang terms used by the kids in all three movies were made up on the spot as well.
Sixteen Candles was made first, in 1984. The film almost starred Ally Sheedy in the lead role of Samantha and Jim Carrey as Farmer Ted, but Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall were ultimately cast. The two stars did not get along at first. John Hughes made them go shopping together, where they bonded in a record store over similar musical tastes. John (Say Anything) and Joan (Working Girl) Cusack both appear briefly in small roles, and most people seem to recall Gedde Wantanabe (Vamp) as Long Duk Dong, the Chinese foreign exchange student. (A sequel was recently proposed, entitled Thirty-two Candles, but was never produced.)
For all the critical raves for The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles remains the most rewatchable and endearing of the three films. The film is a sweet girl's fantasy about meeting the perfect guy, but it has enough base humor to reel in the boys. Even though Ringwald's character chases the hunky elusive Jake, it's her relationship with Hall's "The Geek" that makes the movie hold up so well. Their shy, coy friendship that develops in the "car shop" scene feels more genuine than anything else in the movie. Sixteen Candles uses broad humor that sometimes borders on the offensive (like the gong that goes off every time Long Duk Dong appears), but for the most part it's just funny as a blast of nitrous and painfully truthful. Crushes in high school are horrific, and the movie captures all of it perfectly. The teens think and talk about sex constantly, but rarely do anything for real. That makes it feel all the more genuine. The genius is that Hughes has layered in every "type" found inside a high school, so everyone will find a character to relate to. Films like Rebel Without a Cause only dealt with one clique at a time, but Hughes creates a fully realized world with teens interacting across social lines, as they would in the real world.
The Breakfast Club was produced second, in 1985. Molly Ringwald wanted to play the "basket case" role of Allison, but Hughes had already promised it to Ally Sheedy, who had been passed over for Sixteen Candles. Emilio Estevez wanted to play the rebellious John Bender, but Hughes had plans to use John Cusack or Nicolas Cage (Wild at Heart) in the role. Cusack was not available and Cage was too expensive, so Judd Nelson stepped in (despite being twenty-six) to play the high schooler. Nelson was such a Method actor that he bullied Molly Ringwald on the set, and was almost fired, until Paul Gleason (who plays the principal) stuck up for him. Hall and Ringwald were the only two actors who were actually the right age for the film. Originally Hughes turned in a two-and-a-half hour cut of the movie, but studio executives nervously chopped the film down to a more manageable hour and a half. The title came from the son of a friend of Hughes, who told him they called detention "The Breakfast Club" because it started so early. Other titles considered included "Library Revolution" and "The Lunch Bunch." Originally, sequels were planned to follow the group every ten years, but they were never produced.
The Breakfast Club is the most serious entry in the John Hughes canon, and it's breathtaking for its brutal honesty about how teens talk and what they talk about. The cast was pitch perfect, and the film is brilliantly paced to allow each character to reveal their true nature to the audience and each other. The dialogue is smart and natural. Some people protest the more fantastical sequences where they smoke pot or dance, but these segments provide a nice light diversion from the heaviness that bookends the film. Again there is an innocent sexuality that permeates the film. Characters talk about it nonstop, but none admit to actually having done it. The Breakfast Club cemented the director's reputation as someone who instinctively "gets teenagers" and knew how to speak to them on their own terms. These aren't mini-adults, like we found in Porky's, but real flesh-and-blood kids who find out they all have the same problems. Again Hughes mines every possible stereotype of teen cliques, and then busts them wide open. Everyone has a soul, and nobody comes off as a caricature. The movie defined a generation with the simple story of kids talking in detention, and by taking teens seriously and letting them speak.
Weird Science was filmed after The Breakfast Club in 1985. Kelly LeBrock's character "Lisa" was named after a then-new computer from Apple. The film is set in the fictional town of Shermer, IL and features the same "Shermer High" from The Breakfast Club. It contains early roles for Bill Paxton (Aliens) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Less Than Zero). No sequels were ever planned for the film, but almost ten years later a television series was made from the material. It ran for eighty-eight episodes on the USA network, so could a DVD release be far behind?
Weird Science is the weakest entry in the box set by good film standards, but it remains a lot of fun. If Sixteen Candles was the girl's perfect fantasy, then Weird Science is the adolescent boy's dream come true. What guy wouldn't want Kelly LeBrock to emerge from their computer? The movie defies logic by mixing computers with some strange voodoo and a Barbie hooked up to an Operation game. We never understand quite why Lisa has all these powers, and she seems more powerful than Samantha Stephens. The movie needs her to be that powerful in order to accomplish what it does in a short amount of time, so logic is forsaken for convenience. Hall and Mitchell-Smith make the perfect pair of nerds who discover their inner coolness over a weekend with the help of their supernatural computer creation. What could have been a raucous sex comedy is instead a morality play about finding the courage to stand up and show the world who you really are. Weird Science is silly, but have you ever hung out with high school computer nerds? They are pretty damned silly too. The movie captures their fantasies as nimbly as Sixteen Candles captures the girl side of things. Is it more juvenile? Of course. Boys don't mature quite as quickly.
The anamorphic widescreen transfers are clear enough. The colors are impressive (check out the scene near the end of Sixteen Candles with Samantha outside the church for a jaw-dropping example), but there are washes of grain that pop up noticeably in the darker scenes. You'll notice the imperfections mostly during Sixteen Candles and Weird Science in the nighttime party scenes. Each movie gets a surround mix, which does a lot to amp up the nostalgic soundtracks, which are presented unaltered for the first time since the theatrical releases. Syndicated airings of the films and VHS copies substituted some of the songs because of rights issues, which now seem to be ironed out. The menus are cute, and usually involve the theme of the movie.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Extras are in short supply here, and only Weird Science and The Breakfast Club even include theatrical trailers. All three of these films had many deleted scenes, some of which been included in television cuts, but none appear anywhere on these DVDs. I would kill for a commentary for The Breakfast Club, but, alas, there is nothing. The only extra is the music CD, which features "True" by Spandau Ballet (from the dance scene in Sixteen Candles), "Tenderness" by General Public (from Sixteen Candles), "If You Leave" by OMD (from Pretty in Pink), "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo (the theme to Weird Science), "Oh Yeah" by Yello (featured in the climax of Ferris Bueller's Day Off), "Pretty in Pink" by the Psychedelic Furs (the remade version found in Pretty in Pink), "Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds (a song passed up by Billy Idol, Bryan Ferry, and The Pretenders, from The Breakfast Club), and "I Go Crazy" by Flesh for Lulu (from Some Kind of Wonderful). A nice sampler, but the songs are easily bought through Internet music providers for about a buck a piece legally (free if you know where to go or already own the CDs).
All three films are dated—teen movies are doomed to always live in their respective periods. Teens start trends, and the slang and the wardrobes make these movies hopelessly rooted in the past. An act as simple as Ally Sheedy reading the lyrics to Prince's album 1999 dates the scene. The soundtracks were trendy, so it all sounds totally '80s. Nostalgia is half the fun of these stories, but it does make them in danger of always being seen as period pieces. I wonder what teens raised on the Internet, techno dance music, and hip-hop clothes would make of these kids who use monochromatic computer screens, listen to New Wave, and dress out of thrift shops. The messages are universal, but modern young viewers are going to have a hard time getting past the anachronisms. Will the films only appeal to those of us in their mid-twenties to late thirties?
I wish the little three-ring binder came with extra insert sheets, so I could run out and buy Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire to slip in there right alongside these three films. Then I could feel my The Brat Pack Movies and Music Collection would be complete. As it stands though, I like my Universal collection. It's very cute, even if it is oversized and sticks out of the shelf. The only problem is that I bought two of these movies before, when they were part of The High School Reunion Collection, so now I have extra copies. I wouldn't mind if the new versions offered something new, but they are exactly the same, down to the cover art on the discs and transfers. Now I just look like some paranoid freak with back-up copies of teen comedies lying around. If you didn't buy them the first time around, then The Brat Pack Movies and Music Collection is the perfect chance to get three teen classics from the '80s, and you can jam the eight songs whenever you want to pretend you're taking a dance break like The Breakfast Club gang did. If you did buy them that first go round, take a pass until we get some extras.
The three films here are comedic gold from the '80s. I'm not sure why teen movies can't be as fresh and smart as the work of John Hughes, but I haven't seen any in recent memory that come close, other than occasional scenes in American Pie. These movies all offer the right dose of sexual obsession married with childish innocence which make them all the more sweet in retrospect. These are kids trying to be adults, but they aren't there yet. It rings true even twenty years later. Molly Ringwald will always be the ultimate high school girl in my mind's eye. Perhaps that is why she had to work primarily in France for the past decade. We rarely let our icons change, and the "Brat Pack" will forever be trapped by our collective vision of them as the teens we wished we were.
The movies are not guilty in this case, they're all classics of their genre. But I would like to sentence Universal to two months of Saturday detention for unloading these bare bones editions on us not once, but twice.
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