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The Breakfast Club: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Breakfast Club (1985) movie poster The Breakfast Club

Theatrical Release: February 15, 1985 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: John Hughes

Cast: Emilio Estevez (Andrew Clark), Paul Gleason (Richard Vernon), Anthony Michael Hall (Brian Johnson), John Kapelos (Carl Reed), Judd Nelson (John Bender), Molly Ringwald (Claire Standish), Ally Sheedy (Allison Reynolds), Perry Crawford (Allison's Father), Mary Christian (Brian's Sister), Ron Dean (Andy's Father), Tim Gamble (Claire's Father), Fran Gargano (Allison's Mom), Mercedes Hall (Brian's Mom), John Hughes (Brian's Father - uncredited)

Buy The Breakfast Club from Amazon.com:
30th Anniversary Edition: Blu-ray + Digital HD, DVD / John Hughes Yearbook Collection: Blu-ray + Digital HD, DVD / Instant Video

The Breakfast Club was not John Hughes' first movie, nor was it his last. It is not his best movie, nor is it his worst. What The Breakfast Club is is the most quintessential of Hughes' films.
This 1985 dramedy embodies its era and overflows with the quality of its writer-director's films that most resonated with viewers and which continues to distinguish them from countless other movies exploring the teenage years and the high school experience.

Written and directed by Hughes alone, this film is set on a Saturday in late March 1984 in Hughes' signature setting of Shermerville, Illinois, a Chicago suburb resembling the real ones that stood in for it and in which Hughes grew up. At 7 AM, five students assemble in the Shermer High School library to serve a 9-hour weekend detention. The five hail from different social circles with virtually no overlap. They are champion wrestler Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), prom queen Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald, the most famous yet least convincing lead), brainy nerd Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), quiet outcast Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), and rebellious bad boy John Bender (Judd Nelson, the most dynamic).

Five high school students (Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson) spend Saturday detention together in John Hughes' "The Breakfast Club."

Some of them know the others by reputation, but none are friends and that isn't likely to change even after spending nine hours together in close proximity. Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason) talks tough and lays down a few ground rules, but the supervision he provides the five youths is far from sufficient enough to enforce that they stay in their seats and silently pass the time.

The five teens actually pass the time getting to know one another, sharing thoughts, fears, and secrets amidst tension and prejudices.

The Breakfast Club is a movie that should give studio executives from any era unease. Here is a movie which unfolds almost in its entirety with nothing more than teenagers talking. There is basically no action. There is no change of scenery. We remain inside this one set -- an unbelievably spacious high school library -- for nearly the full 97-minute runtime. Camera movement is fairly minimal. Conflict is purely verbal.

While that sounds wildly uncommercial, Universal Pictures knew better than to doubt John Hughes. Two years earlier, Hughes had scripted two of the summer's biggest hit comedies: Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation. Just nine months prior to Breakfast Club's release, Hughes made his directorial debut on Sixteen Candles, a moderately profitable and well-received comedy. Breakfast Club only marked Hughes' second time in the director's chair, but he had already found his calling, as a humorous, human storyteller willing to show teenagers empathy and give them a voice.

Principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) warns the students about messing with the bull, but still allows them to run wild for much of the day. Stripped down to his tank top, a pot-fueled Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) lets out a scream that will shatter the glass in this door.

Breakfast Club puts Hughes' gift for crafting characters on prominent display. As far as stories go, this one is much thinner than Hughes' typical high concept comedy (a class that includes such watershed works as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone),
which he stuck with to diminishing returns after directing his final film, 1991's Curly Sue. The framework simply allows the filmmaker greater opportunity to develop personalities and determine what makes them tick.

Hughes may start with stereotypes -- the jock, the geek, the spaz -- but he takes all of them seriously as three-dimensional human beings with feelings, domestic problems, expectations, and aspirations. Principal Vernon assigns each detained student to write a 1,000-word essay about who they think they are and while that seems like a daunting task to these kids, the average adult viewer would have no difficulty producing a paper for each of these complex youths who are fleshed out by confessions and confrontations.

No Hughes-directed film is without some pathos, but The Breakfast Club skews more towards drama and realism than Hughes' typically more escapist fare. That bend, announced with a David Bowie quote at the film's start, is not without some problems. Breakfast Club invites more ridicule than most of Hughes' movies and simply isn't as funny or as much fun as movies like Ferris, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, or even Sixteen Candles. As hard as Hughes tries to be honest about adolescence's pains and parent-set pressures, he can't help but strike a few false notes. Most glaring are an over-the-top scene in which the five smoke pot and the forced, probably obligatory romantic pairings squeezed into the final act. That the film remains as beloved as it is in spite of these evident miscalculations speaks to how timeless and true Hughes' writing otherwise is.

Thirty years since its lucrative February theatrical release, the barely dated Breakfast Club continues to be revered as one of the definitive high school movies. Its 7.9 IMDb user rating ties it with Ferris for the top place in Hughes' far more influential than voluminous filmography. It is a film which drew not even a single significant award nomination and yet it is practically the Gospel of high school filmmaking, a generation-defining film that has been embraced by future teens, even those who weren't alive in 1985. It is tough to imagine another 1985 film joining Back to the Future in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry before this one. It has been paid tribute in countless movies and television shows, with no indication of that letting up anytime soon and no sign of public estimation doing anything but rising

Even at a time when sales of catalog titles on physical media appear to be the slowest they've been since the advent of DVD, you can't question the wisdom of Universal Studios Home Entertainment revisiting this perennial bestseller once more, this time in a remastered 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + Digital HD release five years after its Blu-ray debut.

The Breakfast Club: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 2.0 DTS (French, Spanish, German, Castilian, Italian, Japanese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French Canadian, Spanish, French, German, Castilian, Italian, Japanese,
Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Arabic, Hindi, Icelandic
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, French Canadian, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, French, and Castilian
Release Date: March 10, 2015 / List Price: $19.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($14.98 SRP), Amazon Instant Video
and in 3-disc John Hughes Yearbook Collection Blu-ray + Digital HD ($34.98 SRP) and DVD ($26.98 SRP) with Sixteen Candles and Weird Science
Previously released on July 9, 2013 as 1980s: Best of the Decade Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet and DVD,
on January 10, 2012 as Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy and Flashback Edition DVD + Digital Copy,
on August 3, 2010 as Blu-ray and Rockin' Movies Edition DVD with Bonus MP3s, on September 16, 2008 as Flashback Edition DVD,
on September 2, 2003 as High School Reunion Collection DVD, and on April 29, 1998 as DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

A slipcover sticker touts that the film has been newly restored for this 30th Anniversary Edition and that is absolutely easy to believe. The Blu-ray's 1.85:1 element is basically flawless, which is nothing out of the ordinary for a brand new film but a pleasant surprise for a 1980s high school movie, which is far from guaranteed to look this terrific three decades later.

The sharp, spotless picture certainly impresses more than the default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, which is good but basic. At a comfortable volume level, the dialogue repeatedly gets too quiet to make out. Then, though the typically ethereal Hughesian score by Keith Forsey remains subtle, you'll experience the other extreme during the infrequent needle drops, in which licensed music breathes life into the mix but in such loud fashion you'll probably lunge for the remote. Sound design with such extremes is not inconsistent with the discs presenting the director's other films. Still, you may wish a more even dynamics level was found here.

As a Breakfast Club admirer and writer of another acclaimed high school comedy, Diablo Cody lends her voice to the 2010 retrospective documentary "Sincerely Yours." A quarter-century after the movie's release, Judd Nelson still harbors resentment for the press' adhesive depictions of the Brat Pack.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The one all-new bonus feature that makes it to the front slipcover's sticker is a trivia track titled "Accepting the Facts." With this enlightening extra activated, screen-specific fun facts pop up on torn notebook paper and library catalog index card graphics. A valuable way to enhance playback for someone who's seen the film many times before (it unfortunately cannot be paired with the commentary, a dub, or additional subtitles),
the track acknowledges cast members' creative input, John Hughes' inspirations, and the cast and crew's other credits. The piece even displays the occasional behind-the-scenes or deleted scene photo. Though the facts grow scarcer as the movie advances, there's enough to keep you watching with interest through the film-closing reprise of Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

On the video side, we start with "Sincerely Yours" (51:25, SD), a long 2010 retrospective making-of documentary divided into twelve parts. It celebrates John Hughes, the characters he created in this film, and the music he chose, getting reflections from the likes of Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, John Kapelos, costume designer Marilyn Vance, and various media commentators and famous fans (including Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody and Fast Times at Ridgemont High director Amy Heckerling). The source of many of the trivia track's tidbits, it's a really good companion piece that sadly probably wouldn't have materialized had Hughes not died. The absence of both Estevez and Ringwald is notable and unfortunate.

"The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origins of the Brat Pack" (5:30, SD) is a short in which filmmakers, journalists (including the one who coined the term), and the Brat Packers themselves discuss the phenomenon that was born out of this film.

The Breakfast Club's original theatrical trailer (2:25) is kindly preserved, albeit only in 1.33:1 standard definition.

Last but not least comes an audio commentary recorded in 2010 by two of the film's five young stars, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, with extras producer Jason Hillhouse serving as host. The two Brat Packers' fond recollections and candid observations do not give us a definitive first-hand account of production but they do give us insight and another fun way of experiencing the film anew.

The basic menu simply loops a short montage of the teens running and dancing to some score. The disc is equipped with Universal's screensaver feature.

An insert supplying your Digital HD code, which works for both iTunes and UltraViolet, is all that accompanies the plain silver and blue disc inside the keepcase, which is topped by a slipcover that features four of the five Breakfast Clubbers on its spines (Ally Sheedy is the odd one out).

John Bender (Judd Nelson) throws up a fist as he walks across the football field in the film's memorable closing shot.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Thirty years later, The Breakfast Club remains an enjoyable study of disparate high schoolers bound together by circumstance. Though not as perfect as John Hughes' greatest comedies,
this iconic detention drama similarly endures on the basis of rich characters and rampant humanity. Having aged very well and better than most of the so-called Brat Pack movies, it is tough to imagine anyone taking a strong disliking to such a universal and epochal film.

Universal's 30th Anniversary Blu-ray delights with great picture quality and very good bonus features, including a welcome new trivia track. While I'm not sure there's enough to inspire those owning the film's original Blu-ray to upgrade, this agreeable release of an agreeable movie should be full of appeal to HD collectors including those who practically get a free Blu-ray by choosing this Digital HD-wielding set over simply a digital download.

Buy The Breakfast Club at Amazon.com: 30th Anniversary: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD /
John Hughes Yearbook Collection: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD / Instant Video


Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by John Hughes: Ferris Bueller's Day Off Planes, Trains & Automobiles
1980s Movies: Teen Wolf Adventures in Babysitting Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Quicksilver Back to School Clue
Emilio Estevez: The Mighty Ducks Tex | Molly Ringwald: Teaching Mrs. Tingle
High School: Clueless Rushmore Grosse Pointe Blank Romy and Michele's High School Reunion Juno Superbad
New: Breaking Away To Sir, with Love

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Reviewed March 17, 2015.



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