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The Breakfast Club – The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Kicking off this year of films released by The Criterion Collection we have John Hughes iconic high school film The Breakfast Club. The acclaimed coming-of-age comedy-drama primarily works as a chamber drama that happens to be deconstructing various high school clichés and has been held up high by audiences from all over. Taking this story of high school students stuck in Saturday detention and turning it into a beloved modern classic speaks to what a particular generation responded to. Even if one is not a fan, I believe it’s easy to see why the film has been given its share of praise and has even been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being culturally significant. With this new Blu-ray release, fans can see the film looking and sounding better than ever, along with plenty of new and never-before-seen extra material.

Film:

So after all that here’s the thing: I’m not the biggest Hughes fan. I have no doubt his films spoke to many people, particularly the ones he made with teenagers as the lead characters. This is not to say I think Hughes is terrible at what he does but I just don’t hold him in as high esteem as others do. The BreakfastClub is a bit of an odd one for me, as it’s remarkably different from his other films, but comes at a cost. For all the fun that comes from some of the comedy and chemistry between the cast members, it also makes some significant reaches in how it presents its drama. Given how the film isn’t meant to be satirical, holding the drama presented at face value means having me accept some pretty particular circumstances that were enough to afford a few students merely a day in detention

For the uninitiated, the story focuses on five students who have arrived bright and early on a Saturday at Shermer High School for all-day detention. These students include Andy, a jock (Emilio Estevez), Claire, a princess (Molly Ringwald), Brian, a brain (Anthony Michael Hall), Allison, a basket case (Ally Sheedy), and John Bender, a criminal (Judd Nelson). They are being watched over by Assistant Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason), but mainly spend the day by themselves in the school library, annoying each other, and eventually opening up about their lives.

At over 20 years old, not all the humor is going to hit in the same way, but the film is still elevated by the work of the performers. I’m not going to say I saw any major screen presences when looking at how each of these characters is rounded out on the whole, but for the time of this film, each is doing a good job. Everyone is going to have their favorites, but Nelson does stand out, as he’s the instigator. There’s not really a movie without him, as he stirs up trouble and makes everyone engage in conversation; arguments or otherwise.

Part of the trouble I have is getting around the shortcomings of a film that delivers five specific types of students, forcing them into a specific position and having them inevitably break out of that shell to reveal their true feelings. It’s most problematic with Allison, as her third act change doesn’t have much weight to it. The most melodramatic is Brian, but Hall is so sincere in his performance that it finds a way to work. This once again makes Nelson such a tricky one to highlight. It’s a broad performance, but there are certain layers in the character, and maybe it’s just Hughes who I’m not entirely convinced by when it comes to what’s not helping to make everything indeed register in the way I know the film wants.

Having mentioned my issue with Hughes, I suppose it’s worth noting for all the praise he gets as a man capturing the times; it seems like all his movies/scripts end up being whittled down from much longer drafts/cuts. That’s not new for the film industry, but with Hughes films, in particular, I always feel like the tone and pacing feel a bit off most likely because they’ve been cut down to 90-100 minute movies from 3+ hour films. Clearly others dig into what he has to offer, but I tend to feel like I am more excited to want to like his movies than what I get from the results.

For whatever reason, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off works for me, and maybe it’s because of what that movie sets out to do. Sure it has its share of drama involving Cameron’s character, but it’s also a bright and sunny film about cherishing life and taking in all it has to offer. Maybe you can’t cut out of school or work every day, but there are times when the sun is out, and it’s just great to have fun. That’s a stark contrast from The Breakfast Club where even the ending is somewhat ambiguous regarding how these kids are going to continue with their lives following this day in detention. And this all comes after the revelation that every one of these kids has severe issues, and maybe only Allison will get out okay because she got a makeover. That seems a bit problematic, but I’m sure there are many people with entirely different reads on the story.

Maybe it’s a demographic thing that has me lower on this film than others. I’m not saying I’d be satisfied with some modern reinterpretation that features a multicultural cast, but looking at what is presented, the film does mostly boil down to white middle/upper-class parents pushing their kids a bit too hard. Obviously, real issues do stem from this, but regardless of my age, maybe I’m not relating as well as the film wants me to because of a sort of focused appeal.

Whatever the case may be, there is a lot to like about this movie. The cast’s chemistry is solid, and there’s good stuff to take from Gleason’s character as well. Here’s a guy who thinks he is pretty cool but chooses to be hard on the students to make a point and hates himself for it. The soundtrack is excellent as well, but that goes without saying. Additionally, any film that has so many memorable quotes and scenes is clearly doing something right.

This may not be the ultimate high school movie for me but The Breakfast Club does occupy a great space in American cinematic culture that I can understand. It is neat to read various bits about Hughes and how this film specifically captured something not being seen elsewhere at the time. I’m also happy that other filmmakers have since picked up the ball and crafted their takes on the younger generation with the same amount of respect and care. As it stands, I won’t forget about The Breakfast Club; I just don’t need to also spend detention with them all the time.


Video: 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC 

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Great news for fans less conflicted than me, the movie looks fantastic. This latest release features a 4K digital restoration that was created from a scan of the original 35mm camera negative. It’s the same transfer from the 30th anniversary release, but still a great one. Hughes may be gone, but he would be proud to have one of his most celebrated films displayed with such clarity. All the details can be found in the high school setting, costumes and more. The work done to clear up any issue has been handled correctly, without removing the film quality that comes from this 1985 film.

Depth: Many scenes set in hallways and the library of the high school allow for lots of dimensionality. There is never any sense of flatness, and one can easily enjoy the framing thanks to some directorial decisions revolving around the character placement that benefit this Blu-ray transfer.

Black Levels: Black levels are nice and deep throughout. This is a very bright film, given the lighting of the school, but moments involving shadows and some darkness register nicely.

Color Reproduction: Speaking of bright, there is a great amount of color prominently featured throughout this film. Similarly to my review of the recent Election Criterion Collection release, when considering how dull some of the Midwestern environments are supposedly being portrayed, even within a high school, it’s the pop of the various characters outfits that help make certain aspects standout.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures all register nicely. Plenty of close-ups on the characters help allow for clear examination of this fact. Everyone looks good here.

Noise/Artifacts: Original film grain is preserved, while the rest of the film has been fully cleaned up. It’s spotless.

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Interesting to see how Criterion brought in the original mono track. I watched the first half with the original track and the 5.1 track during the second half, to see how it played. Both play well, but purists will certainly enjoy hearing the soundtrack and dialogue in its original form. There’s really no downside here though, as it all comes across very well, even if the music does ultimately play better in the mono format.

Low-Frequency Extension: The music gives a bit of life to the 5.1 mix and the LFE channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: For the 5.1 track, there is enough to work with as far as getting a great balance on the various channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard clearly.

Extras:

With a combination of new and old extras, along with nearly an hour of never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes, Criterion is really going all out to please Breakfast Club fans this Blu-ray presentation. Everything you could want in regards to this movie is here, short of a new audio commentary (you still get the old one from 2008).

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with actors Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson – Recorded in 2008.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD, 52:00) – These are the scenes that made up the original 150-minute rough cut of the film. It’s been dug out of the Universal archives, with a watermark to show, but still neat to see.
  • Describe the Ruckus (HD, 13:00) – A new video essay featuring Hughes’ production notes, read by Judd Nelson.
  • Sincerely Yours (SD, 50:00) – A 2008 documentary featuring many of the actors along with other filmmakers delivering their thoughts on the film and its legacy.
  • Cast and Crew – A series of new and old interviews with the cast and crew discussing their perspective on the film.
    • Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy (HD, 19:00) – Newly recorded.
    • Judd Nelson (SD, 13:00) – 1984 interview.
    • Ally Sheedy (SD, 16:00) – 1984 interview.
    • Irene Brafstein (SD, 9:00) – The studio teacher on the film’s set. Recorded in 1984.
    • Paul Gleason (SD, 12:00) – 1984 interview.
  • John Hughes – Two archival audio interviews with the writer/director.
    • American Film Institute, 1985 (HD, 48:00)
    • Sound Opinions, 1999 (HD, 17:00)
  • Electronic Press Kit (SD, 24:00) – An archival piece with lots of clips from behind the scenes and interviews.
  • Today (SD, 10:00) – A 1985 Today show clip from NBC, featuring all the actors.
  • This American Life (HD, 16:00) – Molly Ringwald goes over her experience with the film’s legacy.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:30)
  • PLUS – An essay by author and critic David Kamp

 

Summary:

I was very curious if this rewatch of The Breakfast Club was going to finally sway me and have me understand what it is that makes everyone celebrate this film as much as they do. While I will say I get where that comes from, I still can’t say it’s a film that personally feels like a defining high school movie. Regardless, anyone looking forward to this release will get everything they want out of it. Terrific technical presentation and a bevy of extras will deliver everything required for a signature release of a film held up as a modern classic.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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