ON THE MENU of "The Breakfast Club": a beauty, a brain, a basket case, a jock and a hood -- five strangers from very separate cliques, sentenced to serve a whole Saturday in detention together in a suburban Chicago high school. " Writer/director/producer John Hughes' charming movie is based on teenage talk, and it's true to their cruel caste system: This crew wouldn't say hello to one another even if they had adjoining lockers. Thrown together in the library to write an essay on who they think they really are, this unlikely gang is like a teenage "Twelve Angry Men."

After they've bounced off the walls, grossed each other out and picked on each other, the kids connect in a true confessions session. Their conversations give "The Breakfast Club" its snap, crackle and pop. And this is that rare movie that could bnefit from another half hour of talking time. The searching, often awkward monologues really sound like kids learning that there are other kinds of people out there, that there's something beyond high school's soul-crushing popularity race. But too much time is wasted on an inconsequential adult subplot, and on an energetic but intrusive "Footloose"/MTV-style dance scene in the library.

Hughes has assembled a terrific team of young actors, and they create likable characters that manage to go beyond their stereotypes. The quintet is led -- antagonized, really -- by the frighteningly intense Judd Nelson, who as tough-guy John Bender, also exhibits a convincing vulnerability. As rich and popular Claire, red-headed Molly Ringwald says volumes with her gum-chewing vacuity. Ally Sheedy plays against type as Allison, the ghoulishly made-up withdrawn weirdo. And Anthony Michael Hall is sweetly out-of-it as Brian the brain. Emilio Estevez, so funny in "Repo Man" and fast becoming the movies' best new Young Hero, plays Andy Clark, a wrestler fed up with having to put winning above all else.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (R) -- At area theaters.