The Breakfast Club
Film Length: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English (Captioned), Spanish, French
Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1
Before I write another word, I think you should know that I love The Breakfast Club, and consider it to be one of my favorite movies. I have seen it at least 30 times, know every line, and will watch it whenever I see it on TV. A few years ago, I even sat through this movie on a local TV station when there was enough “snow” in the transmission to make it look like a blizzard was in full force in the library where most of the film takes place.
The Breakfast Club is an extraordinary film, a deep exploration of teen angst by John Hughes, one of the most prolific directors of the 1980s. The ‘80s were a hotbed for teen comedies of different varieties, giving us classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Sure Thing, and several of John Hughes’ entries into the genre. In Hughes’ case, he besieged audiences with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club over the course of only a couple of years. Unlike the mostly forgettable efforts of many of his contemporaries, however, Hughes’ films were distinctive in that the thinly drawn, sex-crazed boozehounds present in many other teen comedies were largely absent. Instead, Hughes relied upon his profound grasp of the things that trouble a typical suburban teenager to tell his stories, and built a loyal following in the process.
Essentially, The Breakfast Club is a story about how the differences between people are largely perceptual, and how the characters overcome their preconceived notions and stereotypes of members of other groups. At the beginning of the film, the five individuals that have been sentenced to a Saturday of detention could not be more different from one another. Later, as the teens begin getting to know each other, defense mechanisms break down, and these people of extremely divergent backgrounds become unlikely friends, if only for a day (we cannot safely assume these people don’t return to their comfort zones when they return to school on Monday).
The common bond that brings these unique individuals together is their general fear of an uncertain future (the characters dread growing up to be like their parents), the desire to belong, and parents who cannot understand what they are going through. Yes this is typical fare for any “serious” teen comedy, but this particular John Hughes story captures the essence of teenage life as effectively as any other film. Its treatment of the isolation, fear of ridicule, and angst most teens feel, regardless of how much self-esteem they outwardly display, gives The Breakfast Club an air of authenticity most other comedies sorely lack. More impressively, this film remains entertaining and fun, despite dealing with some serious emotional issues, because of the light-hearted dialogue and precise execution by Hughes and his actors, which is what makes or breaks most comedic ventures.
Largely dialogue-driven, The Breakfast Club relies heavily on both the writing and the ability of the performers to entertain its audience, and succeeds due to its strengths in these two areas. With only one notable exception, the cast is extremely effective, and from the very first time I saw the film I really grew attached to these characters. For instance, Emilio Estevez gradually dispels the mindless jock stereotype that with a performance laced with subtle humanity, and Judd Nelson is equally effective as the nasty, rebellious John Bender, who trashes everyone else despite the fact his own life is devoid of substantial relationships or activities. Likewise, Molly Ringwald is exceptional as Claire, bringing out the dark side of a popular, spoiled young woman with great authenticity.
Ally Sheedy and Paul Gleason are also great, as the disturbed recluse Allison, and the dictatorial teacher Mr. Vernon, respectively. In my opinion, the only somewhat weak spot is Anthony Michael Hall’s portrayal of Brian, which never rises above the stereotype of the “geek”. Unlike the other characters, I simply could not find anything about Brian that I liked enough to latch onto, but I suppose Anthony Michael Hall’s performance is good, and just the weakest link in a very strong chain. That most of these actors failed to reach greater heights is surprising, because they were uniformly excellent in this film.
You may think it odd, but despite my warm and fuzzy feelings about The Breakfast Club, I never purchased the previous DVD release. For some reason, I have always expected Universal to give this film a full-blown “special edition” treatment. Frankly, although the previous release boasted serviceable picture and sound, the nearly complete lack of extras caused me to hold back. When I heard rumors of this High School Reunion version of the film, I thought my strategy had paid off.
Unfortunately, now that I have received the disc, I have to say that I am once again left disappointed by the complete lack of special features. Yes, Universal has included the theatrical trailer, but I think that we have reached the point in the life cycle of DVD where this can no longer be considered an “extra”. It has been almost twenty years since this film graced the screen, so how about a retrospective or a commentary track at least? Or what about including some of the additional footage that has been shown in television broadcasts?
I just cannot comprehend how Universal, one of the first studios to embrace DTS sound and really comprehensive packages of bonus features, could burn fans of this great film twice in the extras department. I hope it is for a good reason, like the stars’ desire not to participate, and not because some “ultimate extreme edition” is in the works. I guess things could be worse though, as this edition does include a brand new anamorphic transfer and two 5.1 tracks (yes, that means DTS!).
The Breakfast Club is one of the handful of teen movies originating in the “decade of decadence” which survives largely unscathed. In fact, it is still relevant today for its ability to exemplify that for all the differences between human beings, we are more similar than we might like to admit. A great story, mostly fantastic performances, very quotable dialogue, and memorable tunes add up to a great movie experience (at least for me)! Very highly recommended as a film (but see my thoughts on this DVD release below)!!
So, How Does It Look?
Thanks to the increased resolution of the new anamorphic transfer, this version of The Breakfast Club bests the picture quality of its predecessor, but the improvements are not overwhelming. In a nutshell, the image is much cleaner, with only an odd speck of dirt popping up here and there, and color rendering is fairly accurate. Colors do look a tiny bit faded, but I think that has more to do with the period the film was created in than the transfer. Black level and contrast are also quite good, giving the resultant image a nice texture and film-like appearance.
On the negative side, some minor edge enhancement is occasionally visible, and some compression artifacts as well, which is strange because there are no extras to compete with the image and audio tracks for disc space. Aside than those two minor quibbles, this is a very nice transfer, and since it pleased a zealot like me, I imagine most fans of the film will be more than happy with it.
What Is That Noise?
Especially for this release, The Breakfast Club’s audio tracks have been re-mixed, and we get the choice of either 5.1 channel Dolby Digital or DTS. Since this is a dialogue heavy teen comedy, I did not expect these tracks to blow me away, but I was surprised to find that the front sound-field opened up quite a bit, and that dialogue was more clear and crisp than I remember it being before.
As far as surround use is concerned, there really is not too much to report. There is an occasional effect sprinkled throughout the soundtrack, and the rears also help embellish the memorable ‘80s tracks that pop up throughout, but that is about it.
Note: This version of the film contains all of the original music from the theatrical release.
The trailer for The Breakfast Club, is the only featured extra. There is also a recommendation by Universal that you check out Weird Science and Sixteen Candles if you liked The Breakfast Club. Very disappointing!
The Score Card
The Last Word
After long years of waiting for Universal to re-tool this title, I found the “High School Reunion” release of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club to be somewhat of a let- down. Sure the enhanced visuals and multiple surround options (including DTS) are wonderful, and the movie still maintains it enduring charm, but the previous DVD release was not that bad in these two areas either. The other notable change is the inclusion of all of the original songs used in the film, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, none of these changes negates the glaring omission of featurettes, a retrospective, or a commentary track.
That being said, I am a realist, and seeing as this is likely the best Breakfast Club we will get for a while, purchasing this title is a no-brainer for people like me who do not own the previous release, and value picture and sound quality above the inclusion of extras. This is especially true if you are going to purchase it as part of the “Brat Pack” box set (The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles), which is only $39.98 list. As such, I do recommend this edition of The Breakfast Club, with the caveat that owners of the previous disc should really think twice about whether the slight picture and sound quality enhancements are worth the price of upgrading!
September 2nd, 2003