The John Hughes High School Trilogy – Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club and Weird Science

     September 6, 2008

Reviewed by Kenny Fischer

Before John Hughes disappeared, he made several classics. You could argue that of those classics, his most lasting films were the high school trilogy, Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Universal is capitalizing on that, but since Ferris is a Paramount release, this collection includes Weird Science in its place. These are his first three movies and they are high school movies, but it’s like that Sesame Street game:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Weird Science is not like the others.

As far as I’m concerned, and my opinion’s been solidified after rewatching all three films, Sixteen Candles holds up the best. Outside of the racism, the jokes are funnier, the heartfelt moments work better, and the supporting cast is fantastic. It’s also the best example of why the MPAA has gone to shit. The movie is rated PG and one of the first lines is, “I can’t believe this. They fucking forgot my birthday.” Then five minutes later you see a girl naked in the showers. Neither of those things would fly in a PG-13 movie today and I think our society is worse because of this. I may be wrong, and some parents will certainly think so, but fuck ’em. Most of the jokes still work in this movie. Anthony Michael Hall plays one of the best geeks in movie history. In The Breakfast Club he plays a cliche, but here he plays a fun riff on a cliche. I love how he’s incredibly confident without having any reason for being that way. I also like how Hughes found a way to have his pursuit of Molly Ringwald’s character derail and it doesn’t feel like a bullshit way to have her end up with Jake Ryan, like the Duckie debacle in Pretty in Pink.

Molly Ringwald has now become the definitive lovable and angsty teenager. And like Anthony Michael Hall, I think this is her best performance and character in her long and varied collaborations with John Hughes. She’s layered, interesting, and hilarious. (Note: It’s fun to watch these movies from the ’80s and pay attention to the credits. The camera operator on a lot of these “classics” has become a big deal director of photography. In this case, Gary B. Kibbe, John Carpenter’s DP.) Sixteen Candles is an all around fun movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. The Breakfast Club on the other hand, takes itself very seriously. I feel like we’ve written enough about the movie by this point. It’s a classic, but it’s an incredibly flawed classic. I like how the movie starts out with five cliche characters and then begins to show what they have in common and what makes them tick. But no matter what he does with the characters over the running time and how much he changes things up, he’s still dealing with five cliche characters. The movie also panders to teenagers more than anything else in Hughes’ filmography. All the adults and parents are the devil, except maybe the janitor. I always prefer when high school films flesh out the adult roles, like Sixteen Candles or Juno, but no effort is made here. And the weed scene… Don’t even get me started. But you’ll never hear or read me say a bad thing about the final freeze frame. Every movie should end like that. In spite of the flaws, I still love this movie. But Weird Science on the other hand…

There’s no getting around it, Weird Science is a major departure for John Hughes. It’s a fucking bizarre movie. You’d think maybe Hughes was on drugs, but Breakfast Club is proof that the guy hasn’t even smoked weed. I grew up on Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. I saw each of them a dozen times as a kid, but I didn’t see Weird Science until a few years ago. I really wasn’t ready for the tone and since I don’t have any nostalgic feelings for the movie, I found it hard to forgive the extremely corny elements. This is one of the most over the top comedies of the ’80s. It makes Breakfast Club seem like a documentary. All the heart and genuine moments from the other two movies have gone out the window. It ends with Kelly LeBrock turning Bill Paxton into a shit creature. That says everything. I was also shocked how many of the comedic gags involve gunplay. Once the third act kicks in it feels like every character pulls a gun on someone.

The basic premise is ludicrous, but I can let that go. Two teenage boys use their computer to create a beautiful woman with magic powers. Um, okay… It’s odd how the woman they create seemingly for carnal pleasures also functions as a mother figure to them. It works, but it’s also a really strange choice with no intentional Oedipal subtext. I like how in Sixteen Candles, Jake Ryan is supposed to be this great guy, but he passes his girlfriend off to Anthony Michael Hall like he was loaning him a cassette. Then in Weird Science, the two villains try to do the same thing and it’s supposed to show they have no class. As far as I’m concerned, Robert Downey Jr. has the two biggest laughs in the movie with his line about “tomfoolery” and “I’m shitting my pants!” I guess I’m being a dick about a “comedy classic” and it may just be me, but everyone in the “documentary” for this movie seems to feel the same way. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s certainly overshadowed by the other two movies in this collection. But this is really up to you. You know how you feel about these movies, why do you care what I think?


Before I get into any of that, I have to talk about the case. The DVDs come in a big metal tin designed to look like a high school locker. It looks awesome on my shelf. If that kind of thing floats your boat, order the DVD now. All the films are 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. They look and sound great. On to the special features…

Sixteen Candles has one documentary. “CELEBRATING SIXTEEN CANDLES” On the back of the DVD they describe it as a “10-part documentary.” They should probably warn you that the documentary is 35 minutes long. Still, it’s probably the most fun and informative of the three documentaries. The cast, crew, and other filmmakers, including Michael Lehman (director of Heathers), Diablo Cody (writer of Juno), Amy Heckerling (director of Fast Times), talk about the movie and its legacy. The same talking heads appear on all three DVDs. It’s interesting to hear the cast talk about John Hughes’ directing style and his approach to the film. Diablo also has some funny insights. It would be great to see what John Hughes has to say, but it seems like he’s never going to resurface. That would have gone a long way, but the documentary is still pretty great if you love the movie. Breakfast Club has the most special features in the collection. “SINCERELY YOURS” This is a 51 minute documentary in 12 parts. It’s like a longer version of the doc on Sixteen Candles, but it’s somehow less interesting or informative. It’s more of a glorified EPK, but a few gems and interesting facts are sprinkled here and there. “THE MOST CONVENIENT DEFINITIONS: THE ORIGINS OF THE BRAT PACK” I like this piece. We find out why that notorious group of actors was dubbed “The Brat Pack” and how they feel about that.

Weird Science has an odd collection of special features. “IT’S ALIVE!: RESURRECTING WEIRD SCIENCE” It’s a 16 minute documentary in 4 parts, keeping with the motif this set has established. While the documentary for Sixteen Candles is the best in the set and gives you the most bang for your buck, this one is also awesome because everyone’s very honest and candid about how the movie is an anomaly in Hughes directorial filmography. Everyone seems very confused by it. I love that Hughes wrote 30 pages of the script in one night after filming Sixteen Candles. In case you got your hopes up, I’ll warn you again, John Hughes is nowhere to be found on this DVD, either. “WEIRD SCIENCE TV PILOT EPISODE” Holy shit. How did this last 88 episodes? It’s really hard to get through. It’s amusing to see Lee Tergesen, who played Evan Wright in David Simon’s stunning HBO miniseries Generation Kill, as Chet. He’s unfunny and as over-the-top as a Nickelodeon sitcom. I’d feel mean ripping him a new one but he’s proven himself to be a fantastic actor in other circumstances. John Hughes doesn’t have his name anywhere on the pilot, but John Landis is an executive producer. I have no idea what that’s all about.


This is a fun collection with a really cool case. Plus, it’s pretty damn cheap. If you love these movies, or at least 2 out of the 3, then it’s a no brainer.

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