Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: 'The Breakfast Club' Criterion Blu-ray

John Hughes only made six movies about high schoolers, but the fact that he is synonymous with teenage travails isn’t necessarily because Curly Sue wasn’t a great piece of cinematic art. It also isn’t because he was the only one talking to teens in the eighties. Filmmakers such as Amy Heckerling, Savage Steve Holland, and Tim Hunter were too, and probably with more audacity, but there is some intangible magic about a John Hughes picture. It could be his decision to use the Brat Pack as his personal casting pool. There certainly is something special about witnessing Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall sharing the screen. It might be the fact that Hughes never shied from the kind of raw, maudlin emotions that we teenagers loved to wrap ourselves in or the toilet humor we thought was funny. Or maybe it’s that his films were so hopeful, and hope is what we really need when twirling down the angst whirlpool. Sometimes we also need a big, horse-killing dose of eighties, and watching a Hughes movie is like playing nine hours of Pac-Man while blasting Duran Duran and eating a vat of Nerds.

Whatever it is, Hughes movies scratch an itch that Fast Times at Ridgemont High and River’s Edge can’t quite reach, and no Hughes movie scratches it like The Breakfast Club. It has it all: the cast, the quotable lines (“No, dad, what about you?!?”), the puerile humor without the gratuity or racism of Sixteen Candles, the melodrama, the Simple Minds, and Hughes’s oddball perspective of teenagers that is both cluelessly unreal, and yet, aspirational. I certainly never attended a detention group therapy session with a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, but I and a zillion other eighties teens sure wanted to after seeing The Breakfast Club. Which is crazy, since Saturday detention would clearly suck and spending nine hours with the kids most likely to tape your butt cheeks together would too. But Hughes made it seem appealing, probably because he made the mutual understanding these five kids reach seem possible.

The Breakfast Club may not fit in with the Criterion Collection’s usual crop of cult classics and art-house achievements, but there’s no question that it is an important movie. What picture better defines its generation? That’s right, my Neo-Maxi-Zoom-Dweebie…none of them. So Criterion showers all the respect on The Breakfast Club that it would give to a Bergman film. The 4K polishing is gorgeous. Extras are abundant. The most attractive will probably be nearly 52 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. Some of these will be tough for all but the most hardcore cultists to distinguish from scenes in the final edit, but other bits certainly stand out. We get Claire and Brian acting out Bender-style daddy-issue psychodramas. We get Bender calling Brian “smegma toast.” We get Carl the Janitor’s complete explanation for how he came to pursue the custodial arts, as well as his really mean predictions for each of the Breakfast Clubbers’ futures. We get Bender’s bizarre Ricky Ricardo impersonation and several scenes that help build the argument that Ally Sheedy was the movie’s MVP (sadly, we also get more of the tragic scene in which Claire gives the formerly cool Allison a jock-bait makeover. Boo!).

A clutch of cast/crew interviews includes a new 18-minute recollection starring Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, who discusses the cast’s atypical role in finalizing the script and gives some theories on what might have gone down on Monday, February 17, 1985. Period, on-set interviews with Sheedy and Judd Nelson reveal a couple of rather thoughtful young stars, while Paul Gleason’s on-set interview reveals that unlike the character he plays in the movie, he was a nice, goofy guy and not a total dick.

The less substantial supplements are so plentiful that they’ll still keep you busy for hours. A 23-minute “electronic press kit” to promote the original film includes interviews with the principal cast. Nelson reads bits of Hughes’s production notes for twelve minutes. Two segments from the Today show totaling ten minutes find Jane Pauley picking the brains of Ringwald and Nelson and Sheedy, Hall, and Emilio Estevez. There’s also an hour of audio interviews with Hughes and a 15-minute one with Ringwald.  Rounding out Criterion’s exclusive extras are the excellent Sincerely Yours documentary and Nelson and Hall’s commentary track from Universal’s 2008 “Flashback Edition” DVD.
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