The Breakfast Club (1985)

54f1c-the_breakfast_clubHere is a seminal high school coming of age film that has its moments although it is not altogether brilliant. The story takes place on a Saturday when the local school is empty and five very different characters are all thrown together. For an entire afternoon, apart from your typical adventures through the halls of the high school campus, they sit in a room.

The players are as follows: A brain, an athlete, a social queen, a basket case, and a criminal. Initially they all are annoyed that they have Saturday school and there is tension between them. Over the course of the afternoon they soon open up and realize they all have similarities and despite their differences they can be friends.

There are other coming of age films that are probably better but it is certainly an interesting social commentary and a cult classic thanks in part to the song “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” Lets just face it, the 1980s just would not be the same without John Hughes (Ferris Bueller, 16 Candles, Trains, Plains & Automobiles). He certainly is not the foremost of directors, but he will not be forgotten any time soon.

3.5/5 Stars

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

f9eb8-planes_trains_and_automobilesThis film should really be called Planes, Train, Automobiles, buses, trucks, burnt-out cars and …well you get the idea. This John Hughes comedy is set during the Thanksgiving holiday and it has a plot foretelling, Home Alone, although acted out in reverse. Let me explain.

Instead of being stuck at home, home is, instead, the unreachable destination that Neal Page struggles to get to on a return trip from work in New York. As with many Americans, he is excited for time with his wife and kids over a thanksgiving dinner in Chicago. But Chicago is very far away and from the beginning everything goes wrong. He struggles to hail a cab, his flight gets delayed, and he must share a hotel room with a friendly but annoying shower curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith.

Their relationship is strained from the start as Del is the man who unknowingly takes Neal’s cab. They get fed up with each other, accuse each other of stealing, and in general take a strong disliking for each other at one point or another. Del’s genial nature is initially a major turn off for the reserved Neal who just wants to be home.

There comes a point where so much has gone wrong it does not matter anymore and, despite all the grief, they must either go crazy or laugh it off and become friends. Ultimately, they choose the latter and it ends up working out. Neal heads home thankful that Del was able to finagle his passage across country and then in a moment of charity he goes back for his new found friend. The truth comes out and Neal brings one more guest to his Thanksgiving dinner. Once more they carry Del’s hulking case together, this time up the front steps. He may have combated freezing snow, fire, and much more general discomfort, but most importantly Neal learns a little bit about himself. So it’s a travel comedy with a moral at the end.

Although my travel experiences certainly have not been this outrageous, I did relate to bits and pieces which made the film that much better. Furthermore, Steve Martin and John Candy are wonderfully cast alongside each other as complete polar opposites. There is a lot of fun slapstick and yet the characters never lose their humanity and so to the end we can still appreciate them, despite their flaws. However, I sincerely hope my thanksgiving is better than theirs. No promises, though.

3.5/5 Stars

Review: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

de119-ferris1What’s the dream of every high school student? A school day on the town with their friends of course. In other words, the fantasy is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s utterly ludicrous but that’s part of the charm because it is such a fun romp that we forgive it for any flaws it may have.

Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is a charismatic and clever slacker who constantly breaks the fourth wall while hatching elaborate plots to get out of school and pull one over on his parents. He’s continuously pulling fast ones the whole day long and loving every minute of it. Including fake symptoms, dummies, voice recordings, and sound effects. A school-wide collection for the Save Ferris Campaign is passed around due to his illness.

In case you did not catch on yet this is a caricature of the high school life, far from reality, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. In John Hughes high school world there are stuffy and monotone teachers, a sadistic principal bent on catching Ferris red-handed, and a squeaky-voiced secretary a little behind the times. Most importantly of all, Ferris seems to have the world on a string, and his best friend and girl are right beside him to enjoy it all. Not even his sister or Mr. Rooney can thwart his fun, no matter how hard they may try.

Cameron (Alan Ruck) has a knack for the authoritative voices, sports a Red Wings Hockey jersey, and gets pulled into every one of Bueller’s schemes. He takes a lot of grief. Going so far as letting Ferris take out his father’s precious red Ferrari. As it turns out he has a very loud scream as well. Ferris does however, help him gain a little self-respect. Sloan (Mia Sara) is the cool brunette who readily takes part in the day. She’s future wife material but that’s a topic for a different time. On his part Mr. Rooney spends the afternoon getting berated, pummeled, ticketed, and chased all over the neighborhood. All in the name of catching Ferris Bueller in his lie.

The epic day off in the Windy City includes all of the following:
A trek to the observation deck of the formerly named Sears Tower (The tallest building in the world at the time). A pitstop at a ritzy restaurant for one Abe Froman, followed by a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Art History lovers will be ogling and drooling during a montage where Cameron famously stares intently at Seurat’s work in pointillism. Then, of course, there is the Von Steuben’s Day Parade with perhaps the most famous lip-sync of all time. How I love “Twist and Shout.”

It’s not all great however, with Cameron running into problems with his dad’s car, and it must all come to an end eventually. Ferris shares one last parting kiss with Sloan and the race is on to get back home before he is found out. That’s when a little more luck comes into play. Not to mention a superhuman leap and some sisterly love.

Don’t think less of me but I am not a big fan of The Breakfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High, two 80s teen classics. However, I cannot help but like a Day Off. Matthew Broderick is tremendously memorable, and the sequences in Chicago make for an equally thrilling ride. This might not be a great film, but it certainly has many returning for a second helping and maybe thirds and fourths. Who wouldn’t with a day like that? It’s like a sightseeing tour for the viewer with a little comedy and good old fashioned friendship sprinkled in. A real treat.

4/5 Stars

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Starring Mathew Broderick, this is the ultimate teen comedy from John Hughes is about a guy who has a day on the town with his friends. Using his wits, the teen idol Ferris Bueller gets out of school bringing his friend Cameron and his girlfriend Sloan along for the ride in a red Ferrari. They make stops all throughout Chicago at Wrigley Field, The Sears Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, and of course the Von Steuben Day Parade. Over the course of the day, the Dean of Students Mr. Rooney goes looking for them as well as Bueller’s sister. Despite some problems with the Ferrari and trying to get home undetected, Ferris returns from his adventure without his parents being any the wiser. This film has it’s share of memorable moments and Ferris often breaking the fourth wall is a unique touch.

4/5 Stars