Few defined the zeitgeist of 1980’s teen angst in movies quite like the late great John Hughes. As a writer and director, he’s responsible for some of the most memorable as well as quotable comedies of the decade, such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987). At the beginning of the 1990’s he shifted more exclusively to writing and producing movies starting with the smash hit Home Alone (1990); Career Opportunities would follow the next year. Previously released on DVD by Universal, Kino has picked up the film for its Blu-ray debut for it’s 30th anniversary.
The Production: 3/5
Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) is a young man with a gift of gab but no talent for holding down a steady job in his hometown of Monroe, Illinois. After being fired from his latest job, his annoyed father gives him a choice: either get and hold down a job a the local Target or get put on the bus to St. Louis. Jim manages to get a job, but as a night janitor working for minimum wage. However, his first night on the job gets a welcome surprise in the form of Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), the daughter of the richest man in town. Over the course of the night, the two find that they have much in common and plan on a future together, if they can manage to get past a pair of dangerous yet bumbling criminals (Dermot & Kieran Mulroney) who have eyed Target as their next spot for larcenous hijinks.
Career Opportunities is definitely a movie that bears several of the hallmarks of John Hughes’ earlier efforts, but it’s also something of a mixed bag as well. The plot does contain Hughes’ trademark witty insight into the problems that teens and young adults sometimes face in life and there’s – of course – a great use of the soundtrack that’s synonymous with a John Hughes movie. However, the major problem here is that there are interesting aspects in the story that aren’t fully explored or fleshed out; I don’t think that Hughes or first time director Bryan Gordon are truly at fault here, but rather that some scenes and moments appear to look and feel like they’ve been truncated or excised completely from the final cut prior to the film’s release (some of these cut moments do appear in the theatrical trailer for the movie), leaving a feeling of dissatisfaction that not all opportunities have been taken advantage of – Hughes certainly felt that way and unsuccessfully tried to have his name removed from the film. Even so, Career Opportunities is amiable enough – warts and all – to make it a decent and brisk little romp through its light running time; in short, it’s not near the top of John Hughes’ greatest works, but far from the worst.
As the fast talking Jim, Frank Whaley casts a decent impression as the goof of his family trying to make good on his last chance; the same year this movie came out, Whaley appeared in two Oliver Stone movies: JFK as a Lee Harvey Oswald imposter and The Doors as guitarist/songwriter Robby Krieger. As the affluent but misunderstood Josie, Jennifer Connelly has one of her most notable – or rather infamous – roles prior to her Oscar winning turn in A Beautiful Mind (2001); the scene where she’s riding a coin operated mechanical horse was notably used to promote the movie, much to Connelly’s chagrin. In roles that clearly echo the Wet Bandits in Home Alone, Dermot and Kieran Mulroney add some quirkiness as well as some menace to their respective roles as Nestor Pyle and Gil Kinney; Dermot has gone on become an accomplished character actor on the big and small screen while Kieran has gone on work as a musician, screenwriter (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), director (Paper Man, with his wife Michele) and make occasional appearances in both movies and TV – most notably in the Seinfeld episode “The Implant” where he reprimands George Costanza for double dipping (“Just take one dip and end it!”). Rounding out the cast here are John M. Jackson – better known on TV as Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden on JAG – as Jim’s exasperated father, Jenny O’Hara as Jim’s mother, Noble Willingham as Josie’s rich and abusive father, Barry Corbin as the town sheriff, William Forsythe as the head custodian of the Target store and a memorable uncredited appearance by John Candy as the store manager who nearly gives Jim a high paying job.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio for this release. Film grain in faithfully represented along with fine details and color palette; issues like scratches, tears or speckling from dirt or dust are minimal to none here. This is by far the best the movie has ever looked on home video and represents an improvement over previous DVD releases on the movie.
The film’s original Dolby Stereo soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear, with the sound mix and Thomas Newman’s score (and accompanying song soundtrack) also given faithful representation as well; there’s little to no instances of problems like distortion, crackling or hissing present here. All in all, this is likely the best the movie will sound look on home video and represents an improvement over previous DVD releases.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentary by Chicago Critics Film Festival producer Erik Childress – Recorded for this release, Childress talks a little bit about the movie and its production history and cast and crew in addition to pointing out some of the flaws as well.
Theatrical Trailer (2:15)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – The Hot Spot, Bright Angel, Retroactive, Just Visiting
Despite underwhelming with both critics and the box office upon first release, Career Opportunities has garnered a small cult following in no small part due to the presence of both John Hughes and Jennifer Connelly. Kino has likely given the movie its best home video release with a great HD transfer and a commentary track that does highlight some interesting info on the film. Highly recommended and worth upgrading from the DVD.
Amazon.com: Career Opportunities [Blu-ray]: Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley, Dermot Mulroney, John Candy, Kieran Mulroney, Barry Corbin, John M. Jackson, Nada Despotovich, Reid Binion, Bryan Gordon: Movies & TV
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