Brat Pack films get a second chance to impress
By Jen Chaney
By Jen Chaney
To the kids who struggled with their own particular brand of adolescent angst in the 1980s, John Hughes' coming-of-age films served as the best kind of cinematic comfort food. Collectively, they reminded teens that it's OK to be confused, jaded, occasionally depressed and completely comfortable with eating Cap'n Crunch and Pixy Stix sandwiches for lunch.
Unlike many pop culture phenomena from the '80s (see parachute pants or virtually any episode of "Solid Gold"), the Hughes canon still resonates with young people who weren't even born when the movies first projected onto theater screens. And that's why it always seemed shameful that the DVDs for flicks like "The Breakfast Club" came with barely any bonus features.
This week, Universal attempts to rectify that error with the "High School Flashback Collection," a box set that includes new releases of three quintessential Hughes pictures: "Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles" and "Weird Science." While the special features on each still aren't as robust as one might hope, they definitely note a marked improvement over the multiple lackluster versions that preceded them.
Packaged together in a tin box designed to look like a high school locker, the collection not only dredges up some fun trivia about each film, it attempts to put the impact of the Hughes films into a larger cultural context. Everyone from teen-movie experts Amy Heckerling (director of "Clueless") and Diablo Cody (writer of "Juno") to journalists such as Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman and The Washington Post's Hank Stuever appear in the documentaries to discuss the deeper meanings of the Brat Pack genre. Numerous cast members, including Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy, also participate.
Since all of these discs are available for individual sale, you may be tempted to just buy one and skip the collection. If you do, go with "The Breakfast Club." In addition to being the most influential of the Hughes films, it also boasts the most solid DVD extras, including a 51-minute documentary, a featurette about the Brat Pack and an engaging commentary track with Hall and Nelson.
The extras on "Weird Science" which comes with a brief documentary and the pilot for the TV series based on the comedy, about two geeks who create their own dream woman are the most limited. But the ones for "Sixteen Candles" may be the most disappointing. Yes, the DVD does deliver a 38-minute look at the movie's legacy, with contributions from cast members such as Hall, Justin Henry, Gedde Watanabe and Paul Dooley. But that's the only bonus material we get. And what's worse, there is no sign of Michael Schoeffling the since-retired actor who played the iconic dreamboat Jake Ryan or John Hughes muse Molly Ringwald. "The core of 'Sixteen Candles' is Molly," says John Kapelos, who played "oily bohunk" Rudy. He's right, and that makes her absence all the more glaring.
Speaking of absent, the now reclusive Hughes, not surprisingly, doesn't make a single appearance on the collection. In recent years, he has turned into an almost J.D. Salinger-like figure: rarely seen or heard from but still admired by filmmakers and film lovers who were influenced by his work. We can only hope that someday he'll emerge to talk about these movies, for a DVD documentary or a commentary. And when he does, yet another box set perhaps an even more comprehensive version than this one will celebrate the return of the Teen Movie King.
Chaney is an editor and DVD columnist for www.WashingtonPost.com.