John Hughes helped to define the eighties by creating such realistic portraits of teenage life. The eighties can be described as rebellious, but Hughes manages to convey that rebellion with movies about the exterior innocence and interior fear of high school culture. There hasn’t been anyone better since Hughes at capturing teenage youth.
The Brat Pack Movies & Music Collection is another DVD box set of Hughes’ beloved high school trilogy (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science). Each encapsulates a different moment in youth.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Today, Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) turns 16, the age every girl – and sometimes every guy – waits for with great anticipation and joy. I’m not sure I know why turning 16 is such a special event in a girl’s life. Is it because 18 is the semi-official age of adulthood and 16 is the age in-between being a teenager and an adult? Anyway, Samantha’s birthday happens to fall the day before her older sister’s wedding. Naturally, her entire family is frantic about getting ready for another important event in a girl’s life.
Her grandparents fly in to stay with the family. The house is filled with people and in the confusion of everything, not one person in her family seems to have remembered her 16th birthday – one of the most important events in a young girl’s life. She at first dismisses it as maybe a joke, a small lapse in memory; but as the day wears on, she realizes that her family has truly forgotten about her birthday, culminating in a heart wrenching scene of Samantha, at the school dance, running away from a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), finding a secluded spot and crying.
Before that, she had just witnessed Jake Ryan dancing with his girlfriend. Samantha stares, which Jake notices and exchanges eye contact. What’s a girl to do? This conflicts with Samantha’s already fragile emotional state, wondering where to fit these pieces and trying to find her self-worth.
The beauty of Sixteen Candles is its realism and its attention to the finer details in high school, like the conversations that girls have about their crushes or the conversations that boys have describing just the outer parts of the female body. The heart of Sixteen Candles is the raw emotions that the film portrays, especially the embarrassing moments that everyone has experienced or at least seen. It doesn’t matter that Samantha acts incredibly awkward around the boy that she’s in love with because the feeling is relative. What guy hasn’t been embarrassingly awkward around his crush? Even though the film is about a girl, everyone can empathize and sympathize with her feelings.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The one thing that everyone feared most in high school, even more than going through an entire school day with one’s zipper open, is Saturday detention. It’s the setting for John Hughes’ next film The Breakfast Club, with a group of completely different teenagers meeting for detention. Every stereotypical teen is represented in this diverse group: the jock – Andy (Emilio Estevez), the popular girl – Claire (Molly Ringwald), the bully – Bender (Judd Nelson), the geek – Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and the outcast – Allison (Ally Sheedy). They are all supervised by the hard ass Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason).
Everyone seems to be “obviously” different from one another, but through spending the entire day together – talking, having fun, pissing off the principal – the five of them figure out that they are very similar people. High school is one of those places where you try to find yourself, and the five learn by talking and listening – finding out about themselves through learning each of their situations.
The Breakfast Club helps teach the power of conversation and how much we can learn from one another through talking and listening.
The funniest scene in the film also leads up to one of the most intense scenes. Bender shows up Principal Vernon with sarcasm, to which Vernon gives additional Saturday detentions for Bender. Although both appear to be “themselves” during the exchange, each secretly reveal their “true” selves later in the film – Vernon, after the exchange as he leaves the room, sighs and tries to regain his composure; Bender, in a closet, loses himself after Vernon gives him one free punch.
Weird Science (1985)
Two nerds stumble on the invention of a lifetime – the perfect woman. Using their computer, friends Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the girl of their dreams and name her Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Lisa also ends up having special powers, which she uses to toughen up the boys so that they – with their own personalities – get their own dream girls.
If Sixteen Candles represents reality, The Breakfast Club pessimism, then Weird Science represents idealism. Technology and computers were advancing like nothing ever seen before. The computer was hailed as the future, with everything looking bright. Creating flesh and blood through computers, although in hindsight very unrealistic, represented the technology’s incredible potential.
But the metaphors don’t end there. The computers also represent the potential for these two boys. If computers can do anything, then the boys can do just as much. Gary and Wyatt just don’t know it yet. This is where Lisa comes in, creating odd situations in order for the boys to grow and become the men they should be. The two’s biggest test is not only being able to host the biggest party of the year, but to also deal with a large group of party crashers.
Video and Sound:
For 20 year old movies, the quality sure does look pretty good. All three films sport 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfers, but they are the same transfers recorded from the High School Reunion Collection DVD box set of the three Hughes films that was released in 2003. All three sport Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks. They sound crisp, especially the music tracks.
Like the transfers, the special features are the same as from the High School Reunion Collection DVD box set. The only difference is an additional CD of eight of the trilogy’s most beloved songs: “True” – Spandau Bauet; “Tenderness” – General Public; “If You Leave” – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark; “Weird Science” – Oingo Boingo; “Oh Yeah” – Yello; “Pretty In Pink” – The Psychedelic Furs; “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – Simple Minds; “Go Crazy” – Flesh For Lulu.
A marathon of these three films will instantly take you back to the eighties. No other set of films have captured the eights quite like what John Hughes has done. Get it if you don’t already own the High School Reunion Collection DVD box set (now out of print).