Teen Angst at Its Best: The Brat Pack Is Back

(Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
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By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2008

John Hughes saved my generation. That might sound like hyperbole, but to the kids who struggled with their own particular brand of adolescent angst in the 1980s, Hughes's coming-of-age films were the best kind of cinematic comfort food. Collectively, they reminded teens that it was okay to be confused, jaded, occasionally depressed and completely comfortable with eating Cap'n Crunch and Pixy Stix sandwiches for lunch.

Unlike many pop-culture phenomena from the '80s (see parachute pants or almost any episode of "Solid Gold"), the Hughes canon resonates with people who weren't even born when the movies were first projected onto theater screens. And that's why it always seemed shameful that the DVDs for flicks such as "The Breakfast Club" came with barely any bonus features.

Universal has attempted to rectify that with the "High School Flashback Collection" ($39.98), a box set released this week that includes three quintessential Hughes pictures: the aforementioned "Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles" and "Weird Science." Although the special features still aren't as robust as one might hope, they definitely are a marked improvement over the multiple lackluster versions that preceded them.

The collection, packaged in a tin box designed to look like a high school locker, not only mines fun trivia about each film, it attempts to put the impact of the Hughes films into a larger cultural context. Teen-movie experts including Amy Heckerling (the director of "Clueless") and Diablo Cody (the writer of "Juno") and such journalists as Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman and The Post's own Hank Stuever appear in the documentaries to discuss the deeper meanings of the Brat Pack genre. Numerous cast members, including Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy, also participate.

Hughes doesn't appear on the new collection. In recent years, he has turned into an almost J.D. Salinger-like figure: rarely seen or heard from but still admired by film lovers and filmmakers influenced by his work. We can only hope that someday he will emerge to talk about these movies, for a DVD documentary or a commentary. And when he does, yet another box set (perhaps an even more comprehensive version than this one) will celebrate the return of the Teen Movie King.

Best trivia: There's lots to choose from, but it was delicious to discover that in the uproarious wedding scene from "Sixteen Candles," the woman who scoots over in the pew so that drugged-up bride Ginny (Blanche Baker) can sit down is none other than John Belushi's mother.

HIGH SCHOOL FLASHBACK COLLECTION is rated R and runs 284 minutes.

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