John Hughes was considered the master of teen oriented cinema in the 1980’s, often depicting somewhat lower middle class kids on the verge of adult hood. While the movies were raunchy and funny, they were also intent on building characters centered on self reflection and facing potentially dead end adult hoods. While “Weird Science” has mostly been lambasted as Hughes’ worst, I think I’d choose his debut “Sixteen Candles” as the weakest of his eighties outputs.
It’s apt that John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” would be granted a Criterion release, as it’s still one of the most riveting character studies ever released. While it’s often imitated, Hughes’ 1985 drama stands alone as a hallmark of simplicity, grabbing a cast at the top of their game in a decade, offering up truly remarkable performances in already seasoned careers. “The Breakfast Club” was basically “The Big Chill.” Except for a drama being about people in the middle of their lives, we’re able to sit down for ninety minutes with five young people at the beginning of their lives pondering on what they could become as adults, what they don’t want to become as adults, and what they fear they will become as adults.
Bill Paxton could play any character. He could play anyone, at any time, from anywhere. He was a cowboy in the old west, he was a soldier in the future fighting aliens, he was a tornado chaser, a leather clad vampire, a slimy car salesman, an obnoxious big brother, a dad burdened with the knowledge of demonic entities, a punk, et al. He could be anyone. I am one of the many kids who grew up watching Paxton give riveting performances on film, no matter how big or small the role was. Paxton was a man who could appear in any time period on film and you bought his performance and his place there.
By all accounts, Paxton was a very nice and warm man who loved his fans, and treated everyone with immense respect. I was born in 1983, so I was old enough to remember a time where Paxton was in a lot of movies, and was a constant face on film. He’d just pop up, and it was a pleasant surprise every single time. Paxton even helped invent a ton of imitators who would walk around screaming “Game over man! Game over!” over and over and over. It never got old.
I think one of the main reasons why “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” has become such a classic, even thirty years later, is that Ferris Bueller is that character we wish we could be. Many of us have always dreamed of ignoring life’s responsibilities and obligations if only for one day, and Ferris has the guts to act on his desire. This is a guy who is working hard against becoming just another doting workaday suburbanite like his parents. And somewhere down the road, he might even become his best friend Cameron, a guy ruled by his fear and insecurity.
John Hughes’ iconic eighties drama has always remained a timeless favorite for me. It’s not just because he manages to speak to the teenage condition, but the human condition. Surely, “The Breakfast Club” still manages to speak waves about how teenagers lived back in the eighties, and how they still live today, but “The Breakfast Club” had something to say about being an adult and how the lessons we learned as a teenager would carry us in to adulthood, for better and for worse. The characters we meet in “The Breakfast Club” essentially find common ground in the way they approach life, and think about themselves, but when we part from them we never quite know where they’re headed.
Back in 1991, I was a big fan of “Married with Children,” and loved Ed O’Neill. He was raucously funny as the blue collared Al Bundy, whose life was an endless series of misfortunes, so a big screen career seemed only a natural next step. I never caught “Dutch,” however I do fondly remember it as the failed big screen feature of O’Neill’s that became a consistent running joke on his hit sitcom. You can even see a “Dutch” standee during an episode where Al and Peggy are in a video store, promising a free copy for all customers. Oddly enough, “Dutch” isn’t that bad.
I was seven when “Home Alone” first arrived in theaters, and oddly enough I don’t remember the first time watching it. I did go to the movies to see it, as we always did, but I do fondly remember one night when my brother and I dragged my dad to see it for a third time. Beside “Who Framed Roger Rabbit!” we’d seen “Home Alone” at least three times in theaters, and we loved it. My dad had worked late, and he picked my brother and me up during one snowy night and we debated on what to see in the theaters. He was anxious to watch “King Ralph,” but we begged him to let us watch “Home Alone” once again. He obliged and allowed us to watch it yet again, despite entering the theater mid-way through the movie for the final half.
Even during his days on Second City, John Candy was one of the most restrained and brilliant comedy personalities of his time, a man who had genuine wit and charisma, and garnered laughs by his quick timing alone. Before Chris Farley presented the assumption that in order for a large man to be funny he had to take falls and be the butt of violent physical gags, John Candy had a class to his humor that showed the heavy guy didn’t have to always be the subject of vicious antics and mean spirited humor. Sure, in “Uncle Buck,” Candy does take his hits and falls, but the entire movie is based more around his charm, razor sharp wit, and ability to improvise at the drop of a hat. Not that Chris Farley wasn’t a laugh riot, but heavy men could do more than provide laughs for the more attractive people in the movies.