Our reviews of The Brat Pack Movies And Music Collection (published November 14th, 2005), 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.
"Dear Mr. Vernon. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? 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. Correct?"
John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone) made his mark with films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science. Throughout the '80s, Hughes became well known as a filmmaker able to speak to the "youth condition," such as it was in the Party Decade. Almost entirely out of this, and other similar films, Hughes' regular stable of actors became known as the Brat Pack. This was, at first, an affectionate term of description, and later evolved into a negative oath as popular tastes moved away from the group of actors.
The Breakfast Club was a very simple film. Able to be translated into a theatrical production with hardly any script or production changes, the film focuses on five high school students in suburban Chicago. During Saturday detention, they come to grips with their impressions of one another, of the roles they each shoulder within the social strata of society, and how their individual worlds aren't really as different and alien as they thought.
While it lasted, the Brat Pack and the associated films they collectively worked on were an interesting phenomenon. The mid '80s had more than its share of films that examined the lives of young people. Some focused on teenagers, others looked into college age students, or young adults adapting to their newly independent lives. The common thread was that all worked to expose, sometimes in overly dramatic (even cinematic!) ways, problems, concerns, fears, and desires of the generation of Americans aged 16-25 in the mid '80s.
The Brat Pack backlash came from a tiring of film-goers who didn't fit into the targeted categories of the constant philosophical examination, but the films spoke to audience members living those problems in their own lives. I suppose it's simpler to say everyone's been young once, and it's become increasingly difficult to be young in society as every generation matures. And, compared to the current crop of 'teen' films by the studios, perhaps it would be better to return to a less vapid, more insightful type of youth film.
Hughes, however, was every bit as important to the films of the time as the actors who became famous, and then infamous, by appearing in them. Hughes' films during the Brat Pack era had a penetrating sort of humorous analysis, a sly intelligence amid the entertainment. Though he wasn't of age with the audience who embraced his work, he seemed to have a good grasp of issues concerning them.
Still, while possessing an interesting depth to it, The Breakfast Club is ultimately just a film. The cast is talented, putting on uniformly excellent performances as they portray five students each from different social groups.
The Princess is Claire, Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Stand); she's one of the rich kids, with a complicated 'teenage high society' lifestyle and image. The Brain is Brian, Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, The Pirates of Silicon Valley), mostly a nobody but who's smart and knowledgeable. The Jock is Andrew, Emilio Estevez (St. Elmo's Fire, Young Guns, Mission Impossible), a letterman athlete whose social group enjoys some of the same status as the rich kids. The Criminal is John Bender, Judd Nelson (St. Elmo's Fire, Airheads, tv's Suddenly Susan), a rough guy from a poor, abusive family. The Basket Case is Allison, Ally Sheedy (Bad Boys, St. Elmo's Fire, High Art), an oddball reject who shares some criminal qualities but is ultimately just lonely.
Serving as the foil, representing the adults who give no sign of understanding anything about the world the kids live in, is Mr. Vernon, played by Paul Gleason (Trading Places, Die Hard, Loaded Weapon 1). As the school faculty member designated to watch them during detention, he's resentful, tormentive, oblivious, and arrogant. He makes repeated appearances throughout the story, but the focus is on the students as they clash, bond, and fight with one another.
What about the disc, now that we've gone on and on about the film? Fair question. The video transfer is not anamorphic, but despite this is very well rendered. At 1.85:1, the transfer is in great shape, especially for a fifteen year old film print. It's clean and clear, without grain or grit. Colors are accurate and solid, edges and patterns remain intact and have no degradation. There aren't any appearances of pixelation or moiré patterns. Overall, this is an excellent transfer that lacks only anamorphic.
The sound is clear enough, described as "Dolby Digital Mono." I'm not entirely sure I know what Universal is referring to by this terminology, but as mono soundtracks go, The Breakfast Club's is surprisingly clear and discernible. As a drama, composed entirely of dialogue, voices and speech are centered and project above the rest of the sound.
The disc also includes the rapidly becoming standard extras of cast and crew biographical text. But along side that is a nice bonus extra, in lieu of what extras the disc doesn't include; about two or three pages worth of text describing the film's production. Interesting reading.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, while Universal has become one of the strongest DVD studios in film, The Breakfast Club was a fairly early release in the DVD lifecycle. Before the studio reaffirmed their commitment to the format. Breakfast Club is a pretty basic disc, though not nearly as stripped down as other early discs that were available. The production notes only make you long for a full fledged commentary, which Hughes did for another of his films, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Behind the scenes footage or cast interviews would have been interesting as well.
As for the 'core' of the disc, the only real complaints are the lack of an anamorphic transfer, and the mono soundtrack. Anamorphic would have provided greater quality and lifespan to the disc's video, though the video is excellent regardless. A remixed soundtrack for 5.1 is more missed, though, again, the sound available is up to the task. Put these items in the 'missing but not sorely missed' category.
A solid early DVD offering, The Breakfast Club is an important generation film, one that is key to have available. While a proper Special Edition would be welcome, this disc will serve adequately until such a time.
Good job all around, just take that final extra step next time. Case dismissed.
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