Blu-ray Review: The Breakfast Club (30th Anniversary Edition)

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Often hailed as a classic, the 1985 John Hughes’ teen-oriented comedic drama The Breakfast Club has been reissued to commemorate its 30-year anniversary. Probably the best thing that can be said about this infinitely overrated film is that it has managed to retain its compulsive rewatchability factor. For viewers of a certain age (full disclosure: I happen to fall squarely in this category), The Breakfast Club will forever evoke a very specific feeling of nostalgia. Hughes undeniably captured a moment with his depiction of teen culture in a more naïve era. While the five Brat Packers who play the troubled high school detention attendees deliver fully-realized performances, Hughes screenplay treats the adult characters (all two of them) mostly as caricatures.

Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is the sole survivor from the once-popular soundtrack, which is riddled with awful remants of the ‘80s pop scene. Simple Minds’ booming bass and drums will immediately bring back memories for 40somethings. Many children of the ‘80s have every line committed to memory and it’s not difficult to see why. Hughes screenplay is endlessly quotable, even if some of the lines (both serious and comic) are a bit cringe-worthy these days. Nostalgia aside, as new generations continue to discover The Breakfast Club its status as a sort of cinematic rite of passage seems to have been cemented.

As an examination of youth culture, the sincere attempt to treat teen issues seriously is a great discussion starter. Unsurprisingly the film has even slipped into some school curriculums as an entry point to exploring developmental psychology. For those who somehow escaped ever hearing the gist of the plot, five very different teens are sentenced to a Saturday of detention. Each received their punishment for very different reasons. They don’t know each other and don’t hang out in the same social circles. Tasked by the principal (the late Paul Gleason) to write an essay explaining who they believe themselves to be, the teens get a glimpse into each other’s lives. Sometimes the preconceived, stereotyped notions each of them possess are affirmed, but often times they are not.

Each of the five students is a ‘type,’ and the interesting part for young viewers (be it in 1985 or now) is figuring out the one with which they most closely identify. Emilio Estevez is the sensitive jock; Anthony Michael Hall is the thoughtful brainiac; Judd Nelson is the misunderstood, burnout rebel; Molly Ringwald is prissy Miss Popularity; Ally Sheedy is the introvert who has no clique. The problem with regarding The Breakfast Club as a bona fide classic is that it falters considerably whenever it ventures into truly deep waters. Child abuse and suicide are topics that are simply more than Hughes’ insights can handle (with the latter being treated, almost shockingly, as comic relief).

The most successfully explored issue is also the broadest: whether to fit in with the crowd or march to your own beat. Though it isn’t often singled out as such, the bravest move of all belongs to Sheedy’s Allison. When Nelson’s Bender retrieves his pot stash from his locker, nearly everyone partakes (even Hall’s standoffish Brian). Only Allison resists the temptation to join in with what is rather irresponsibly portrayed as a liberating experience (Estevez’s histrionic gymnastics routine is probably the lamest moment in the movie).

Five years ago a 25th anniversary Blu-ray edition was unleashed, so the big question is what’s new to this edition? There’s an all-new pop-up trivia track that runs the length of the film, but aside from that option there is nothing new in terms of special features. Carried over from the previous release are a number of cool features, notably “Sincerely Yours,” a series of a dozen featurettes which can be watched as one 51-minute piece. A commentary track featuring stars Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall is another worthwhile holdover. “The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origins of the Brat Pack” is a five-minute featurette that talks about the whole “Brat Pack” phenomenon.

Having not seen the previous Blu-ray, any comment about the relative quality of the visual presentation will have limited (if any) value for those deciding whether to upgrade. A bit of research reveals that this transfer is, in fact, new rather than a retread of the 25th anniversary edition. At face value, it’s an impressive image, one that retains the natural graininess inherent in some many films of the era. Hughes’ Sixteen Candles was fairly liberally scrubbed of much of its grain when it came to Blu-ray, so it’s nice to see this looking more authentic. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix offers seriously thumping LFE activity during the music-dominated sequences, but some of the quieter dialogue seems almost buried in the mix.

The Breakfast Club 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray also includes a Digital HD copy.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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