Dec. 17, 2009
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Grade: 55/100

Director: John Hughes
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson

What it's about. Set in a suburb of Chicago. Five high school students must spend a Saturday in the school library, as punishment for bad behavior. They are Andrew (Emilio Estevez), a promising wrestler; Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), a meek "A" student; Bender (Judd Nelson), an abrasive delinquent; Claire (Molly Ringwald), a socialite from a wealthy family; and Allison (Ally Sheedy), a strange, reclusive Goth.

Their supervisor is Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason), a humorless jerk. (Much more cool is the school janitor, John Kapelos). Vernon forbids them to talk or move from their chairs, but since he spends most of the day in his office, the students soon do whatever they please, including smoking pot and engaging in group therapy.

The happy ending has the now-beautiful Allison pairing up with Andrew, while Claire seduces Bender. Since he is still a nerd, Brian doesn't merit an attractive special other, but instead has the honor of writing everyone's required essay.

How others will see it. The Breakfast Club was one in a series of commercially successful films produced, written, and directed by John Hughes, most of which featured children or teens. Although ignored by the award circuits, the movie made a pile of money at the box office, and helped turn the cast members (at least briefly) into household names.

The film has high user ratings at, but they decline steadily with advancing viewer age. Older audiences are more likely to notice the film's primary weaknesses: the patented adult foil/killjoy (see also Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) whom all the teens delight in dissing; the "parents are to blame, not me" philosophy; the teen trauma of a bad grade in shop, or some other blot on the permanent record; the personality change of Allison because Claire fixes her hair; teen guilt over their status as virgins, as if abortions, babies, STDs, and widely distributed internet-posted candid camera shots are the better path; zany dancing to bad, loud corporate rock; and the Stockholm Syndrome bonding of the other students to probable future prison inmate Bender, despite his threatening manner and continual verbal abuse.

How I felt about it. Hughes' dialogue is occasionally revelatory. My favorite pair of lines is "Why are you being so nice to me?" "Because you're letting me." Claire has another moment of honesty when she admits that she will snub Brian come Monday if he approaches her when she is with her own friends.

But then there is all the silliness one has to put up with, especially from Bender. He tells Vernon "Eat my shorts!", which I guess is the worst insult he can deliver and keep a PG rating. Later, he stuffs marijuana down the pants of Brian (is it cool to potentially give somebody a criminal record?), and he receives sexual advances from Claire, after telling her off with "Stick to the things you know: shopping, nail polish, your father's BMW, and your poor, rich drunk mother in the Caribbean."

Most annoying of all, perhaps, is the pseudo-cool theme song, which begins, "Hey Hey Hey Hey! Ooo-oooh Wooah-Oh" But the lyrics get better later on. I quote: "La, la la la la, la la la la, la la la la..." Don't you forget about me? Buddy, I'm trying my best.

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