The Breakfast Club (30th Anniversary Edition) Review
If your formative years fell in the 1980's then there's a good chance that you have fond memories of writer/producer/director John Hughes' work in one way or another, from the bumbling antics of the Griswolds in the Vacation series to the slapstick of Home Alone at the outset of the 1990's. Sandwiched in-between was a series of teen movies which constituted a full half of Hughes' 8-film directorial career and culminated with the genre-defining The Breakfast Club, which chronicles a day in the life of five kids stuck in detention in the fictional Illinois suburb of Shermer.
The premise is just that simple, with a group of stereotypical high-schoolers and their frustrated principal having to do a day's worth of detention on a Saturday, but the writing elevates the characters beyond mere cliché as they spill their troubles to each other. The spoiled rich girl Claire is tired of being an emotional weapon wielded by her warring parents, Andrew the jock hates having to be a vessel for his father's ambitions, Brian wants to kill himself because he isn't going to get straight A's, the oddball outcast Allison just wants to be noticed and the obnoxious Bender drives everyone away because of his troubled home life.
The cast is populated by the cream of young Hollywood's 'Brat Pack' and they're all so perfect for their particular roles. Anthony Michael Hall's skinny bookworm is a great contrast for Emilio Estevez' toned athlete, and Judd Nelson's rebellious troublemaker projects an air of defiance from beginning to end. The beautiful Molly Ringwald is terrific as the pristine prom-queen-to-be and Ally Sheedy plays against type as the introverted black-clad loner who's got nothing better to do, while Paul Gleason is excellent as the hard-assed Principal Vernon. John Kapelos gets a small role as Carl the janitor who dispenses sage advice to all.
It's surprising how little the look of the film has aged; there are no mohawks or 'Flock of Seagulls' hairdo's amongst the cast (unlike Weird Science which came out the same year) nor are their costumes beholden to that peculiarly angular '80s style, with Bender's eclectic ensemble not looking like it belongs to any era. And although Vernon sports a swanky suit with a big disco-fever shirt collar and flared trousers he rightly gets some stick from the kids for it, as even then it was outdated, never mind now. Admittedly, the teen slang of the time is outmoded to the point of hilarity, but given how old some of the cast members were when they made the film (Nelson was 26, Estevez and Sheedy were 23, Hall and Ringwald were 17) it sounds strangely awkward coming out of their mouths regardless. Thankfully the movie is more about delving into the emotional cores of the quintet, so when they're finished hurling insults and are actually talking to each other The Breakfast Club really finds its voice.
It's not all tear-stained heart-to-hearts though, as plenty of anarchic fun comes from the kids defying their straight-laced principal via several whimsical vignettes that alternate with the more emotional beats, like all of them whistling the Colonel Bogey March (as if they're POW's) or the music-video-style interludes. The cheese factor goes off the scale when Emilio Estevez' character has a dancing fit and screams so loudly he shatters the glass in a door (which Hughes apparently said he wouldn't have done had he made the movie later in his career) but I can forgive such a cringe-worthy bit for the sheer youthful exhuberance of it, and the serious moments work all the better for being broken up by such playful scenes.
The movie's masterstroke is that it also humanises the adults of the piece, showing them as people with their own needs and ideals and frustrations instead of being one-dimensional bad guys; Vernon is just as much a prisoner of the school as his young charges are, while Carl has an air of omnipresence about him, the irony being that the lowliest member of the faculty's staff is in fact the most clued-up one of the lot. Add on the use of Simple Minds' Dont You (Forget About Me) to bookend the film, finishing with that triumphant freeze-frame of Bender punching the air as he walks into the sunset, and it's no wonder The Breakfast Club became such a beloved film for an entire generation and beyond. Everyone was a teenager once....
Universal's 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release includes a UV copy and the back cover touts a "brand new fully restored HD master". The studio has got a poor track record when it comes to their back catalogue on Blu-ray, relying on creaky transfers that were already outdated to see them well into the HD era, only with even more noise reduction and sharpening tacked on in an effort to prettify them. We had some high-profile remasterings come out of the studio's 100th Anniversary celebrations a few years ago but things got a bit quiet after that, so this remaster of The Breakfast Club (apparently from a 4K source) has come as a very pleasant surprise and is reputed to be the start of a sea-change of mastering practices at the studio. I live in hope.
This 1080p AVC encode is presented in 1.85 and is exceedingly stable, without so much as a trace of any dirt or scratches as it's been given a pristine digital clean-up. The most intricate details like the textures on clothing aren't hindered by overblown sharpening or moiré, although faces look just a little bit softer than I would've expected. There's a light and unobtrusive layer of grain, which is surprising for a mid '80s movie given the proliferation of the newer high speed stocks at that time, but without any information regarding what stock the movie was shot on I won't speculate as to why that's the case.
The colour is fine, perhaps lacking some richness in the primaries but the skin tones display a good amount of variation, from Ally Sheedy's pale face to Emilio Estevez' more bronzed appearance. The blacks are solid, making Sheedy's dark outfit sink into the screen. There are no encoding anomalies to report aside from a shot of Paul Gleason as he reads the essay at the end, which has rampant noise and edge halos and looks very 'video like' as opposed to, say, a genuine film optical. Strange. All told, this remaster gets The Breakfast Club looking better than anyone's ever seen it before, yet it's got a slightly ersatz quality that stops it just shy of perfection.
The audio is in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and is a competent upmix of the mono original. The dialogue recordings aren't particularly smooth but are intelligible enough throughout, and the pop music used for the interludes (Wang Chung FOREVER!) has a good amount of low-end kick. The rears get very little use, as does steerage across the sound stage in general - which you might expect for a movie about 5 kids stuck in a room - but there are a couple of standout moments, like Bender's shouts echoing behind you as he distracts Vernon.
Most of the extras on this disc have been ported across from the 25th Anniversary release, including a 5-minute piece about the origins of the 'Brat Pack' moniker, a 51-minute documentary about the making of the movie, plus the theatrical trailer and an audio commentary from Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson. The two have an easy-going rapport which makes for an engaging listen. A new addition for this Blu-ray is a trivia track that plays during the movie, though it's more like the Cliff's Notes version of the extras as it pinches a fair bit of information from the commentary and documentary. It's a shame that Hughes' presence is limited to a few quotes and some behind-the-scenes photographs but that's par for the course as he rarely talked about his work, only it's doubly sad because of his untimely death in 2009 aged just 59.
The Breakfast Club is the gold standard of '80s teen flicks, being funny, sad, insightful and everything in between. This newly remastered Blu-ray is a fine monument to John Hughes' most iconic movie and features extremely good video quality (with only some minor caveats) and decent if unspectacular audio, with some reasonably insightful special features. If you have the previous Blu-ray release then it depends on how much of a hardened videophile you are as to whether it's worth buying again, because the handsome new transfer is the biggest point of difference.
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