Welcome to the 80s… again.
To continue my Hughesification, the wife also brought along DVD rentals of Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles to follow up The Breakfast Club. While the quality of these DVDs is in question (grrr Family Video) the quality of the movies is not. I can see now why John Hughes was given the accolades he was, and I can see why, almost thirty years later, his movies are still being lovingly parodied and deliberaretly ripped off. At the very least, I at least get, like, 40 more of the jokes in Not Another Teen Movie that I didn’t get before… oh, and one more joke from Family Guy.
You might wonder why I’m reviewing these two movies together. I’ve done it before, as a compare and contrast thing, but this time I’m going for something different. You see, I’m glad that my wife settled on the whole "Not-really-the-80s-but-who-cares" Brat Pack Marathon approach to watching these films. Had I watched Pretty in Pink, waited a while, and then seen Sixteen Candles, I probably would be less favorable to both of them. Watching them both within a week, though, gives an interesting insight. Basically, these movies should always be watched in close proximity. When done in such a manner, they sort of congeal into one really good movie. Apart, they are like peanut butter and jelly, cloying in their own respects, but mix them together, and you get Goober Grape, something people near thirty years of age will still gush over in the grocery store. Whether this says something good or bad about both movies is uncertain, but I’m sure they both stood up on their own in their own time (i.e. before everyone and their helper monkey started ripping them off) but today, viewing both of the admittedly short films as a PB&J double feature smash-up is really, really smart.
Don’t act like you’re not drooling.
Why? There’s a few reasons. First and foremost, they are both thematically similar in that they deal with a girl from the "out crowd" and her struggles landing the "hottest guy in school." Second, they both star Molly Ringwald, which helps gives a central point of reference and makes you forget that she’s actually two different people in two different movies. Third, while a similar theme, the two movies couldn’t be any more different, with Pretty in Pink definitely falling into a teen drama bordering on melodrama, and Sixteen Candles so damned goofy it’s almost a cartoon. And yet, there are still a few touching moments in Sixteen Candles, like the famous final scene, and there are still plenty of crazy hijinks in Pretty in Pink, almost all courtesy of Jon Cryer’s "Duckie" character, who is sadly far too similar to several of my friends. Does this mean Hughes’ movies are so formulaic, dated, and boilerplate that you can watch several at a time and have trouble distinguishing them apart? Yes and no. One isn’t going to confuse Pretty in Pink for Sixteen Candles, and you certainly won’t confuse these two with the Breakfast Club… but they are all just similar enough and, given the aforementioned drama vs. goofy shit dichotomy of the two above, they make a perfect double feature, and probably wouldn’t quite stand up on their own.
I did notice something odd about both of these movies. Now, granted, they are basically the beginning of the "this is what high school is like, kids!" BS that my generation was brought up on (and promptly threw a generation-wide sulk when high school turned out to suck on ice), but it really just seems over the top at times. However, I grew up in the sticks, where people still listened to Styx when others were pounding in Nine Inch Nails. I kept asking the wife, who grew up in a more, um, "urban" environment (read: more than one black person in the town), if the Chicago area was really like this. It’s no small secret that John Hughes grew up in the greater Chi-town area, and his fictional burg of Shermer, Illinois, is often seen as an ersatz for the town of Naperville on Chicago’s posh north side. She responded that yes, things really were this crazy once upon a time, and that they often still are. Needless to say, I hate teenagers more than ever, including myself as one. It was just mind-boggling for myself to see these things on such a ridiculous level: crazy parties, wanton sex, offensive content, all of which I thought got to the current ridiculous level through years of parody. No such luck. If things really were like this, I’m glad I stayed home most nights. But that’s just me, and the movies are still damn entertaining.
These movies are important for what they are, and what they started. I hate to say that they are "required viewing" because they are the original teenage movies that everyone already knows via pop cultural osmosis… but give them a shot and take them for what they are. If you’ve been spared the parodies up til now, bless you, and see where it all started. If you feel like you were lied to by being promised Bayside High and Animal House in your formative years, just sit down and watch the movies and enjoy the movies, and realize that real life is not cinematic. Just enjoy the movies for what they are, entertainment, and make your own darn life: be ugly, be weird, be wrong, just stop trying to be Molly Ringwald, or Jon Cryer, or even Judd Nelson. After all, they all grew up and moved on, why can’t you?
Oh, okay, maybe not Judd Nelson, then.