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Three more films in my John Hughes retrospective. I've been working backwards from John Hughes' final directing credit "Curly Sue" to his directorial début "Sixteen Candles". So far I reviewed "Curly Sue", "Uncle Buck" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" in the first instalment which you can find here. Below I review "She's Having A Baby", "Weird Science" and "The Breakfast Club".

In my reverse retrospective, "She's Having A Baby" should have come after "Uncle Buck". However, in desperation I jumped straight into "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" - with unfortunate results. So having received my worst John Hughes experience of all time from the movie enjoyed by 47 out of 50 reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes (94%), I figured that "She's Having A Baby", with a score of 48% was unlikely to be any worse.

She's Having A Baby (1988)

There was brief ray of hope in the opening scenes of this movie when it had a sort of Coen Brothers, black comedy feel to it. Our central protagonists are about to get married and their extended families on either side of the Church are utterly unimpressed by the pairing and often badmouthing the other family.

Right from the start of the movie the groom, played by Kevin Bacon, is being offered the chance by his friend and best man, played by Alec Baldwin, to drive into the sunset and leave this whole scenario behind. His best man is already married and divorced and this is his final warning before whatever comes next.

Anyway, the moment the wedding ends and the marriage starts, it becomes clear that isn't going to be much of a comedy. Sure, there are the occasional funny moments (which is more than I could say of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles), but as the film goes on it's cynicism evaporates. I'd feel better about that if I didn't personally feel more reason to be cynical as the film progressed.

Kevin Bacon's character starts fantasising about AND actively pursuing another woman. We are seemingly not expected to judge him to harshly for this. On the other hand there's an occasion where the female protagonist (Elizabeth McGovern) is given the option whether to cheat on him with Alec Baldwin. I think I am supposed to feel like it would be a big moral failing in her if she cheats, rather than wondering what is so sexually appealing about Alec Baldwin showing up drunk and just insisting that he is irresistible. We are seemingly NOT supposed to find Bacon's character annoying when he gets frustrated at not being particularly fertile. But I don't think it's an accident that McGovern's character comes off straight away as a nagging shrew.

The point is, these characters do not seem suited right from the start. Bacon seems naive, McGovern seems sensible. Bacon is led astray, McGovern is committed to monogamy. In spite of apparently struggling to find decent jobs, they are soon living in an absolutely enormous house and arguing about the funds they don't have, but then clearly do have. But Bacon dreams of becoming a successful writer, yet McGovern's character never seems to have any dreams at all until the prospect of having a baby arrives.

The more this film shed its cynicism and took itself seriously, the less I enjoyed it. It's a self-satisfied middle-to-upper-class fairytale about an immature (yet 'loveable') man and his overly sensible wife (who is also lacking in personality) and their joy in realising that their goal in life is to create more copies of themselves.



I was trepidatious about revisiting this one. This retrospective hasn't been fantastic, I didn't remember this film being the best thing ever and had every expectation that, in the light of Hughes other films, it would turn out to be awful. But I decided to trust my 14 year old self that this would be a lot more fun than the last few John Hughes films.

Weird Science (1985)

The premise of this movie initially sounds appalling. A couple of teenage losers who cannot seem to get a girlfriend decide to use their computer and make themselves a woman. But you have to realise that it is very much an accident that they are successful. It's more of a computer-centred ritual rather than an engineering job, with cultish behaviour like wearing bras on their heads playing a part. The woman they create appears to have magic powers and in the end of the end this is like a modern story about a genie granting wishes.

The initial gag is simply that, when faced with a woman, these teenagers have no idea what to do with her. As much as she might claim to be their possession, they clearly have no power over her at all. In this respect it's probably helpful that Hughes, who seems to have an aversion to cynicism, is the one directing the film. The story does not move into the darker territory which the premise might suggest.

So as the genie (the character is called Lisa, but I'm going to refer to her as a genie from now on) offers the protagonists everything they have ever wanted, they become better aware of what it is they really consider important.

Returning to this film after all this time, I now recognise that the appearance of some bizarre bikers reeking havoc, is actually a reference to the movies "Mad Max 2" and "The Hills Have Eyes" (not least since at least two of the actors in that scene come from each of those films). It's an odd reference, but cool all the same.

There is some absolutely wonderful effects work in "Weird Science" which I think holds up remarkably well. Some of the work involving the destruction (and reconstruction) of the house would have been done with CG today and must surely have cost a fortune.

Genies never actually really grant your wishes. Our two teen protagonists find themselves increasingly disturbed by what they are offered. However, the point of the story is that they grow in confidence and realise that they do not need the wishes after all. A more cynical storyteller would take us down the road of a Faust-ian corruption from which there could be no return. But Hughes is happy to have the protagonists grow out of their immature wishing and to realise that they just needed confidence to do things for themselves.

This is the sweet inspiring type of John Hughes film that I'd been hoping for throughout Hughes' filmography. The consensus review on Rotten Tomatoes says: "Hardly in the same league as John Hughes' other teen movies...," yet here I am, having watched 6 out of the 8 films Hughes directed and, besides Ferris Bueller, "Weird Science" seems to be very clearly the best one.


So, with my faith in Hughes mostly restored, it was now time to check out his most highly acclaimed film: "The Breakfast Club". I knew nothing about what to expect. All I knew was that it was supposed to be the big highlight of this retrospective.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

It did not take long for me to start hating this film. It doesn't seem like a great decision to put your moral in voiceover narration at the title credits, but I suppose the point was that we were supposed to recognise the clichés that are listed in the characters. The initial narration tells the teacher not to judge his pupils in simple pigeon-holed stereotypes which are listed as: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

So with that defiant message and the tune of "Don't You Forget About Me" we are introduced to each of the characters who have been put into a day-long Saturday detention. It is suggested to a girl that it might be a bad idea for her to skip school to go shopping and she sighs as if she is too cool to listen. Of all the characters being dropped off for school, the only one I can sympathise with is the 'brain' who is told by his mother that he should make sure he makes any excuse he can to use the time for studying (since the intention is apparently that the students should sit in silence and think about what they have done).

So besides the teen who wants to study, I feel like pretty much everyone at this detention needs to give me a reason to like them. Right now, I'm disinclined to like pretty much any of the five kids. So imagine my surprise when the most obnoxious of the teens who has been doing nothing but insulting everybody gets up to open everyone's eyes about how hard it is being an anti-social arsehole.

He enters into a discussion about school clubs and his lack of membership to any of them and decides to endear himself to me by mocking the 'brainy' student for being "a dork" and "demented and sad".

Of course, this is all after he's already got up to loudly and enthusiastically suggest: "...why don't you go close that door. We'll get the prom queen --impregnated!"

Yes, that's right. The character who is going to open our eyes is the same character who starts the film by trying to instigate a gang rape. Nice...

Towards the end of the film, the suggestion that the students need to stay in their seats is over. They are dancing around the library to loud music, getting high on pot and even giving each other makeovers. There are no real events in the film really. Just long drawn out conversations. Essentially this is "Dinner With Andre" set in a high school.

The "princess" explains that she won't be anyone's friend back in school and the "basket case" cannot stop stealing items the whole way through the film and admits to being an inveterate liar. So they prove to be pretty much exactly what their stereotypes would suggest. Except that the 'basket case' is actually prettier than the 'princess'... particularly BEFORE her unnecessary makeover.

The athlete gives a sob story about how he did not really want to be a horrible bully, but he had pressure from his dad to do so. Over the film he suggests that he has no choices in his life and is being bred like a racehorse and while Emilio Estevez might be a good enough actor to make the dialogue compelling, it doesn't take a lot of thought to recognise that what he is saying is not true. He's clearly just as free as any teenagers in school to make his own decision.

The "criminal" blames his behaviour on his upbringing. In fact, all of the teenagers seem to blame their parents for their mistakes. Naturally the best a school can do to deal with bad behaviour is ensure that children have the fixed rules and expectations which are not provided in their homes and to report to relevant services any evidence of actual abuse. But for the purposes of this movie, I'm expected to forget all that and to believe that detentions represent pure vindictiveness against poor innocent children. And to ensure that I make that naive appraisal of the situation, we get to see the teacher in charge actually threaten to beat up the obnoxious teenager.

The 'criminal' character is clearly an obnoxious bully, but we are expected to forgive him because he's had a tough life (as if one negated the other). There have been trials where lawyers have tried to make similar arguments when defending serial killers. Sob stories do not undermine guilt.

"The Breakfast Club" seems to take jokes like the one in the following sketch entirely seriously:

(video link)

Finally the 'brain' explains the reason he is in detention. Apparently he had a weapon in school with every intention of using it to commit suicide.

In response to the brain's confession, all the other characters laugh and ask him to write their paper for them.

This movie disgusts me.


Just "Sixteen Candles" and a rewatch of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to go. This retrospective has NOT gone well...


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2014 10:29 pm (UTC)
interesting. I saw the breakfast club a few years ago for the first time and had exactly the same reaction as you.
Apr. 15th, 2014 11:05 am (UTC)
Why do you reckon "The Breakfast Club" is so popular?

Discussed this briefly on an IMDB board (yeah, I know, there's my mistake right there) and received some rather dodgy apologetics for why I should think the criminal is cool and why "let's get the prom queen impregnated" is an invitation to consensual sex. :S

There was an impressive short little review for this movie on Letterboxd:
"a bunch of kids in detention come together and bond over the fact that despite being different, they are all terrible."

That about sums it up for me.
Apr. 15th, 2014 12:12 pm (UTC)
Probably nostalgia? Also, gobs of teen movies are godawful (see: goonies) and they never seem quite as awful when you are a teen and surrounded by people who love it.

That is some horrid apologetics. It is one thing to enjoy a movie despite its glaring missteps but to defend them.. jesus what is wrong with people?
Apr. 15th, 2014 05:37 pm (UTC)
I first saw The Breakfast Club when I was in tenth grade, so maybe '98, and I wasn't especially taken with it at the time. Discussing it later, I said, "I guess it was okay..." Someone present remarked with very real anger, "I was a teenager when that movie came out and it changed my life. Don't ever insult it by suggesting that it's 'just okay' again." Glad it spoke to you, I guess, dude, but it mostly just rubbed me the wrong way. That feeling's gotten stronger over the years, as I've caught parts of it on TV from time to time. It's never stopped bothering me how everyone pairs off and then the nerd is left literally KISSING HIS ESSAY.
Apr. 16th, 2014 11:12 am (UTC)
It's never stopped bothering me how everyone pairs off and then the nerd is left literally KISSING HIS ESSAY.

Oh my goodness, that's absolutely right. Ugh!

I'd heard so many good things about this film and I kept expecting it to surprise me. I thought that surely all those people praising this film couldn't be wrong.

But as for that person in tenth grade, I feel like the response should have been: "Oh, I can't call it 'okay'? How about I call it 'crap' instead? Is that better?"

Actually I suppose the big question that comes to mind is how the hell this movie could have changed their life. I mean, I just don't see it. What could possibly be life-changing about this film? The message seems to be "we're all stereotypes and its our parents' fault". Wow, life changing! :S
Apr. 16th, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
Wow. Like everyone else in the world, I'd heard good things about The Breakfast Club, but that sounds terrible. I'm sorry it turned out to be such a disappointment.
Apr. 16th, 2014 11:00 am (UTC)
Remember my negative review of "The Goonies"? Well this seems to be another situation like that - only SO much worse.

It's kind of "you had to be there" situation really. I didn't see this when I was younger, I don't have the nostalgia and as a result I just cannot understand the love for this film. But while I can see how "The Goonies" was fostering a love for adventure and the importance of friendship to the children who watched it, but there's no such message to "The Breakfast Club". If anything, the message seems to be that we all basically fit into stereotypes and that all our faults are caused by our parents and teachers. Oh, and that if a girl is considered a weirdo, what she really needs is a makeover.

I always thought the important messages to children were ones that encourage a sense of personal responsibility and individuality, giving children the confidence to be different and unique. "The Breakfast Club" seems to be in stark opposition to anything like that.
Apr. 16th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the movie "Not Another Teen Movie"? It takes every teen movie made from the 80's until the beginning of the 2000s and spoofs it to an awesome level. It's what a movie parodying a specific genre should be.
Apr. 17th, 2014 06:45 am (UTC)
I always thought that was the same people who went on to come out with "Superhero Movie", "Disaster Movie", "Meet The Spartans" and "Vampire Sucks". Is that not the case?
Apr. 17th, 2014 07:04 am (UTC)
Noooo, this movie came out before them and the people who made it knew how to make a parody movie the correct way. I wouldn't put it on the same level as Mel Brooks persay, but it's leagues above the "_____ Movie" crap that you mentioned. It spoofs the movies themselves, not throwing in as many current (at the time) pop culture events as possible instead of actual jokes.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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