Does "The Breakfast Club" Deserve Its Criterion Treatment?




“A movie about a bunch of stereotypes who complain that other people see them as stereotypes ... But all that this encounter-session movie actually does is strip a group of high-school kids down to their most banal longings to be accepted and liked. Its real emblem is that dreary, retro ribbon" - Pauline Kael [8 Apr 1985, p.123] 


Cinephiles were taken aback last week when John Hughes' much loved "The Breakfast Club" was chosen to be part of the Criterion collection.  There’s no question that Hughes’ 1985 high school comedy-drama is considered a classic by mainstream film fanatics of its generation, it also somewhat represents the white-branch teenage demographic's angst at that time. Personally, I saw it way after high school, so a lot of the themes and dissections of that part of life we're not as resonating. Here's the thing about the movie, and most of Hughes' other "classics," if you grew up with them, then you most likely have an affinity for them. Those films also include "Sixteen Candles," "St. Elmo's Fire," Pretty in Pink," and "Some Kind of Wonderful."

The release is a 4K digital restoration but the real gimme is a whopping fifty minutes of never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes. Hughes' much-rumored two-and-a-half hour original director’s cut of the film will, more or less, be felt through watching these much-sought deleted scenes. Nevertheless, the debate is on, "The Breakfast Club" criterion has caused heated conversation on social media and in forums about Criterion tackling such a mainstream and safe release. The critics were divisive on the film back in 1985, they were negative on most of Hughes' other films as well. I won't criticize Criterion's decision to release what is, by all accounts, a nostalgic film that has its legions, and there are MANY, of fans.

The film is pure nostalgia. Some movies just become classics due to people having grown up and countlessly rewatched them as teenagers. That’s "The Breakfast Club" and John Hughes movies in general. I could go on and on about countless other 80s movies that have become nostalgic classics.  One of the reasons Criterion has decided on this release is that last year the film was “selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.” No doubt, the film fits these demands and has been a cornerstone of millions of lives, but is it essential cinema? Is it Criterion-worthy? Of course not.

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