I Love the 80’s Re-Releases

     July 31, 2008

Written by Charlie Mihelich

Ok, so I’ve always thought it would be a great idea for VH1 to release its “I Love the…” series on DVD, because they are a fun bit of nostalgia and would probably sell pretty well. Naturally, when I heard that VH1 was releasing their “I Love the 80’s” collection on DVD, I figured that my foresight had been rewarded. Not so much.

In a deceptive bit of cross-marketing, VH1’s “I Love the 80’s” DVD collection is a series of re-releases of films from the 1980s at budget price tags. They retail for $7.50 each, and you really get what you pay for. You get the movie, a theatrical trailer (if you’re lucky), and that’s about it. These aren’t special editions or directors cuts or even re-mastered versions of old classics, it’s just the same movie in a cheaper package.

I got to take a look at “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Footloose”, “Pretty in Pink”, and “Some Kind of Wonderful”. If you loved those movies then, then chances are you’ll still love them today, but I’m also betting that you already own them. If you do, there’s nothing new to see here, but if you’ve held off on picking them up, then this is a pretty good price for a re-issue.

Three of these are vintage John Hughes, which means they deal with themes of teenage angst, romance, and the best friend who was always way too good for the girl or boy that ignored them. These movies gave validation to millions of 80’s-generation high-schoolers who never felt pretty enough, cool enough, or smart enough, and they certainly couldn’t get their parents to see what was so important about their first love or their first breakup. These movies MEANT things to teenagers, and despite the sexual humor and the shenanigans, Hughes kept these films from becoming nasty examples of teenage subculture, like “John Tucker Must Die” or other current torch carriers.

Ferris Bueller lived every high-schooler’s dream by outsmarting both his parents and the administration, and the lecherous principle got to look like an idiot in front of the entire school and town while Ferris, his best friend and his beautiful girlfriend got to spend a day on the town in a sweet car.

In “Pretty in Pink”, Molly Ringwald is a nobody redhead from a poor family who falls in love with the wealthiest, best looking guy in school. For both rich and poor alike, teenagers got to see class dynamics come into tension, while countless hopeless romantics got to sympathize with Duckie, the geeky best friend who would do anything for Andie, but to no avail. If the movie was made now, she would realize that Blane was an asshole, that Duckie had been there all along, and she’d run into his arms and they’d live happily ever after. But that’s not real high school. The best friend will always just be that, and his time will come long after the movie ends.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” flips “Pretty in Pink” on its head, this time casting the guy as the misfit, and two girls as his competing love objects. Keith (Eric Stoltz) is absolutely head over heels for Amanda (Lea Thompson), the most popular senior girl. He’s got his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), a Tomboy who discovers she’s secretly been in love with Keith all along. Whereas Duckie was hapless, Watts is kind of cute, so things work better in her favor. Girls tend to be luckier that way.

“Footloose” is born of a different breed; it’s thought of as the kissing cousin to “Dirty Dancing”, and it features a type of dancing that was apparently badass back then, but no one would be caught dead dancing like that now. Ren (Kevin Bacon) moves from the big city to a Midwest mining town, where working class union values and Bible-belt Christianity rule. Ren loves to dance, but the town minister (John Lithgow) has banned dancing. “Footloose” features a recurring theme that many films of the era echo: adults hate fun, and will do anything to stop children from having fun, and until the children show adults how much fun fun is, they will never listen and do their damndest to further alienate their children.

This kind of stuff spoke to people back then. These movies were huge hits, and rightly so. They don’t carry the same kind of magic with them now, but unfortunately that magic hasn’t been replaced with a new era of the high school movie. There’s a great deal of cynicism that has crept into the teenager pic, and while it’s not all unfounded, it really gives the impression that high school life is hopeless, and nothing could be further from the truth.

There is one bonus I forgot to mention: each DVD comes with a CD-sampler with four 80’s-riffic songs to get you in the mood. The bad news? Each DVD comes with the same four songs, so don’t get your heart set on building a classy mix-tape.

You’ve seen these movies before, and if you haven’t, then you will probably never feel any compulsion. Easy choice.

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