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DVD Review - Brat Pack Collection

December 3rd, 2005

Often John Hughes is credited with creating the Brat Pack, a group of young actors who generally worked together during the mid-80s. The film's were some of the best Teen Angst / Coming of Age films made during that time and hold a special place in the hearts of all children of the 1980s. But does the Brat Pack Collection do the films justice, or is it just a cheap attempt to cash in on nostalgia?

The Brat Pack Collection contains three previously released DVDs, which were originally called the High School Reunion Collection. They are the first three films directed by John Hughes, but only the first two can really be called Brat Pack movies. Also, two prime examples of the genre, Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire are not in the set. (This isn't surprising since they are not owned by Universal.) So right off the bat, the collection has two strikes against it.

Looking at the movies in chronological order ...

Sixteen Candles - 1984
Synopsis: Sam Baker's having a really bad day. Her sister is getting married the next day, she has to deal with all her embarrassing family members who are in town for the wedding, not to mention the constant embarrassment that high school is, and to top it all off, her parents forgot her sweet sixteen birthday.
Review: This film did not live up to my recollections. I remember enjoying this movie when it first came out, but looking back now and it really hasn't stood up to the test of time. It's not a bad movie and it is worth watching, but it isn't strong enough to recommend buying it. I think a lot of the problems come from inexperience; it was John Hughes' directorial debut, Molly Ringwald's first starring role, first movie role of any kind for Gedde Watanabe, etc. Speaking of which, the character of Long Duk Dong seemed really racist to me, especially that gong clasp that was used after he spoke. On the other hand, Anthony Michael Hall was the most interesting character in the movie and I found myself more interested in his part of the story than I was in Molly Ringwald's. Looking back, it's hard to believe it's the same guy in The Dead Zone.
Conclusion: This film packs a good bit of nostalgia for fans of the 80s, but that's not enough to recommend buying the movie on DVD. However, as part of this package, the price is certainly right and is more inline with the film's value.

The Breakfast Club - 1985
Synopsis: Five kids are forced to spend their Saturday together in detention. There are the Brain, the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Princess, and the Criminal. It's not much of a plot, but that simple set-up allows for some excellent dialogue and interactions as these five diverse characters at first ignore each other, then attack each other, and finally get to know each other better and maybe even become friends.
Review: Easily the best movie in the set and one of the better films when it comes to accurate portrayals of Teen Angst and diverse character archetypes. For a movie that comes in at less than 100 minutes, there's a lot of character development. On the other hand, there were a couple of times it felt like these characters are just archetypes and not fully developed people, but this was a minor complaint. The dialogue is sharp, and it mostly feels very real, and I especially liked the parts with Paul Gleason and John Kapelos, who played Principal Richard Vernon and Carl the Janitor respectively. It was nice to get the perspective of the adults in the movie without them being made into one-dimensional bad guys, which is a problem with a lot of teen-age movies. Their lives haven't turned out how they wanted, and now they are forced to deal with disrespectful youths that look at them as if they are either the enemy or beneath them. I do have one complaint about the ending (Spoiler Warning: Highlight to read) why did Allison need a makeover? It's like the movie was saying you have to pretend to be a Princess in order to be attractive, which goes against the message of the rest of the movie.
Conclusion: This is one of the quintessential 80s films and anyone who grew up in the 80s will probably want to have it in their DVD collection. My only hesitation in fully recommending this film is the possibility of a special edition coming out sooner rather than latter.

Weird Science - 1985
Synopsis: Gary and Wyatt are your typical Uber-nerds who have no social life. One day while watching Frankenstein on TV they decide to create a woman using their home computer. Not only does it work, but their creation has magic powers! Hey, it could happen.
Reviews: The weakest of the three movies, it is essential an extended teenage fantasy with Kelly LeBrock playing a computer generated Genie. Think Robin Williams with boobs. Anthony Michael Hall plays pretty much the same character he's played throughout all three movies, but the writing isn't as good and the character doesn't seem as fresh. I guess there are enough tough-love life lessons dished out by Lisa that one could try and defend the movie on that point, but I wouldn't. On the other hand, Bill Paxton plays a great bully of an older brother.
Conclusion: Weakest film; not really a Brat Pack kind of movie; hasn't really aged well. I can't recommend this movie, but it doesn't hurt the value of the DVD box set.

Special Features: Do you consider trailers to be special features? Nope, neither do I. In that case none of the DVDs have any special features at all. The special features instead come in the form of a CD with 8 tracks from Brat Pack movies, including a couple of songs that are not in this set.

  1. "True" by Spandau Ballet
  2. "Tenderness" by General Public
  3. "If You Leave" by OMD
  4. "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo
  5. "Oh Yeah" by Yello
  6. "Pretty in Pink" by Psychedelic Furs
  7. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds
  8. "I Go Crazy" by Flesh for Lulu
This is a good collection of songs from the movies with half of them having bigger lives outside the movies they were featured in (none more than "Oh Yeah" by Yellow). I'm convinced that I will be spending a lot more time listening to the CD than I will be watching the DVDs.

Packaging: Normally I don't talk about the packaging, but in this case it's unique enough to warrant a mention. The movies come in a mini-binder, which is cute but not very practical. It is also significantly bigger than the average DVD case and barely fits into my shelving unit.

Overall, this is a middle of the road release. The three movies range in quality from excellent to below average, the special features are lacking, but the price is very good. Of the eight songs on the CD I'd probably download six of them from iTunes or a similar service, which means the average price for the DVDs is about $8.00. It's hard to beat that price. So much so that even if you own one of the movies on DVD it would be cheaper to buy the Box set then it would be to finish the collection separately. However, I'm always willing to spend more to get more and I would have rather had a decent level of special features, (especially audio commentaries and retrospectives). Hardcore fans of the 80s will want to pick up the Box set. Others would be better served just getting previously released The Breakfast Club - High School Reunion Edition.

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