Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I actually reviewed The Breakfast Club! Swear to God! It sucked too, boy....probably still does...

(Ok, for almost an exact year, I worked -- well, they gave me a paycheck, anyway -- as the movie critic for the Arizona Republic's City Life section. It almost pretty much entirely ruined my ability to sit still in a movie theater for, gee, at least a decade. Or two. Three, maybe. I'm still counting.)

As I believe I’ve already mentioned, movie reviewing is exactly the easiest job in the world. But just like everybody else, movie reviewers like to think they got it rough otherwise how could they come home and bitch about work?

The really, really tough part about being a movie reviewer, the really rotten, awful, painful, muscle-creaking,
undignified part about being a reviewer of movies is that you’ve got to go see lots and lots and lots of movies that are, at least ostensibly, “geared for younger audiences.” Which is way, way, way below your dignity. You’re an intellectual, a critic, a big drinker of espresso. You’ve got a whole wardrobe’s worth of grey sweaters, some of them with leather elbow patches.

But now a movie like The Breakfast Club, hey, we’re talking a whole different thing here. You bet! this is bonafide intellectual fare this time, boy. Here’s one teen movie without an eye-stabbing maniac, without rude sex, without car crashes, with literary quotes (or David Bowie song lyric quotes, anyway) and only one tiny video-style dance routine. And not even any nudity or crudity in that... A movie about real teen life today, with lots of touching real teen life traumas and everything. If only all those darned other unruly teen movies would just behave like this!

So maybe you can’t blame all the movie reviewing whores for matching their copy to precisely fit the film’s publicity, but it doesn’t mean you're obligated to buy in on the project. The Breakfast Club is a stagey little movie, five high school characters sentenced to a Saturday in library detention and thus spending most of the movie in one room. There’s such a thing as a good stagey movie but the immutable laws of drama are a lot tougher to evade when you can’t crash the General Lee though the library window for to rescue Bo 'n' Luke Duke. In other words, if it’s a weak play, it s going to be a crummy movie. The Breakfast Club is a crummy movie.

All the acting in the movie is uniformly just fine, and the little ensemble group of young talents is uniformly young and talented. Director producer writer John Hughes, who’s currently being lionized as “the kind of adult who understands the way kids are today” has provided all the uniform young talented actors and actresses with what is uniformly the sloppiest, dopiest material imaginable

If Hughes is the kind of adult who understands the way kids are today, then kids today are: poor-but-intelligent teen hardguys who play air-guitar to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida; student-council socialites who eat sushi from lacquered enamel lunchboxes but nonetheless are really caring individuals underneath; muscle-bound lunkhead jocks who are deeply disturbed by their own brutal treatment of smaller classmates; near-catatonic manic-depressive punk bag-girls who need only brush the hair from their eyes to bloom into a glowing teen normalcy; skinny little straight-A dorks who break up fights between guys who are twice their size.

Kids today, according to Hughes, are also in trouble because they have bad mean parents and bad mean teachers, and because all those bad mean adults keep forcing them to see one another as stereotypes stereotypes like student socialites and lunkhead jocks and skinny little straight-A dorks. (Not Hughes, however; Hughes only has them be lunkhead and socialite and hardguy stereotypes in the beginning so that we’ll eventually be able to see that deep inside they’re all just one big warm sensitive soulful stereotype.)

And if you take five typical stereotypically untypical kids of today and make them all do detention in the school library together, well, they nearly bust a gut racing to bare their souls to one another, and falling into deeply traumatic psycho-dramatic states, and offering one another deeply revelatory personal thoughts on life and sex and then leaping up to dance on their desk. You know, real contemporary teen life stuff.

Now it’s entirely likely that some teen-agers are going to fall for this puerile garbage (nobody but nobody can feel as sorry for themselves as a teen-ager, and there’s no better balm than the Clearasil-creamy concept of bad, bad adults being to blame for everything) but I’d bet that most high school kids will recognize The Breakfast Club for the transparent shuck that it is. Teen-agers know just exactly how sensitive the student council socialites are, which is why they pack the theaters for the teen-slasher movies, and why they cheer uproariously when the bitchy glamour queen and the muscle-bound lunkhead and creepy gothy punk-rocker and all the rest of the stereotypes who make high school miserable finally get their bloody just desserts.

On the other hand, if The Breakfast Club does pay off, just wait until the plague of imitators begins later this year. We’ll have any number of knock-offs featuring sensitive young teens spreading their traumas across library tables before leaping up to dance all over them, beginning the movie as potential ax murderers and ending as tearful-but-reformed healthy and adjusted and productive teen members of society. We’ll be bombarded with the teen sensitivity formula as a substitute for the slash-a-teen violence formula and the horny teen virginity formula, and it will be twice as phony as Halloween At Porky’s VII, but you can’t say that movie reviewers won’t deserve it, even if you don’t.

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