Blu-ray Review: The Breakfast Club (Criterion) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, October 2nd, 2023  

The Breakfast Club

Studio: Criterion

Jan 19, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The ending of The Breakfast Club has never sat well with me. The way prissy Claire snuck off to the closet to make out with bad boy Bender always felt contrived and unearned; Allison’s impromptu transformation – where Claire wipes away her Robert Smith eyeliner and makes her over into a china doll – followed by jock Andrew’s suddenly falling for her seemed downright insulting to her character. Pairing off the characters like this certainly wrapped the film up with a pretty bow, but the execution played out about as realistically as a fairy tale. The only believable aspect of the whole thing was the poor nerd getting stuck writing his classmates’ essays.

Granted, the hokey ending isn’t enough to tarnish The Breakfast Club’s place in the teen movie pantheon: it’s an absolutely outstanding movie, not only one of the best ever made about high school-age kids, but one of the pinnacle films of the 1980s. The ending might have only felt like a Big Problem because I had a habit of accidentally re-watching it over and over again: The Breakfast Club seems to be the one movie I’m physically unable to skip past while surfing cable. (Everyone has one of those, right?) You can see how this became an issue, given that for a while The Breakfast Club made up roughly 89% of VH1 Classic’s daily programming. While I’ve seen the full movie probably a dozen times, I’ve seen the last half of it possibly three dozen.

Fans have been whispering about the existence of John Hughes’ 150-minute rough cut of the movie for as long as home video bonus features were a thing. It’s honestly a shock that the movie’s missing content hasn’t surfaced until now, considering the gravity of the film, and the way it seemed to be the recipient of a new, half-baked special edition every 18 months during the height of the DVD era. That’s why, with good reason, the 50-odd minutes of never-before-seen outtakes and extended scenes included here will be this Blu-ray edition’s star attraction.

Now usually, deleted scenes were deleted for a good reason, and – to be honest – that’s mostly the case here. It’s hard to imagine that any of these missing passages would have improved the final film, and it’s likely that padding the runtime any longer than the settled-upon 97 minutes would have imbalanced the chemistry which makes the movie so compellingly watchable. However, for any fan who’s been clamoring to see what was left on the editing room floor – myself included – they’re fascinating, deeper glimpses into a story and characters we’re incredibly familiar with, and they provide some appreciated context for some of the movie’s more vague statements and sudden reveals.

Notably in the deleted scenes, Claire and Bender originally had a more direct interplay throughout the film that was equal parts flirtatious and antagonistic; if these scenes had remained, their coupling at the end might have seemed a little more earned. Other very worthwhile scenes found here which didn’t make the final cut include John Kapelos’ sage janitor predicting each kid’s future in a stinging way; Brian and Claire doing sad impressions of their parents following Bender’s scary performance as his own abusive dad; and Allison and Andy breaking into a teacher’s locker and finding a vinyl copy of Prince’s 1999.

Whether or not the characters’ sudden hookups at the end of the film would have sat better following these scenes in the director’s cut is still up for debate. They might have made more sense, but it’s questionable whether they would have felt right. What I found to be the most revealing insight this Criterion edition provides wasn’t part of the deleted scenes reel, but writer-director John Hughes’ early story notes (read here by Judd Nelson). In them, Hughes lays out an early premise for the movie: “They come in as five separate people. Become friends. They leave as five separate people.” This is the ending that probably would have rung most true, and it seems to indicate that the squeaky clean close that we were left with wasn’t always Hughes’ intent.

A convincing argument can be made that The Breakfast Club is as deserving of a place in this prestigious cinematic collection as film school staples like The Seven Samurai, 8 ½, The Graduate, and Breathless. Thankfully, the producers at the label have treated it as such, and lavished it with a great visual presentation and a host of extra features. The Breakfast Club is presented here in a restored, 4K transfer with your choice of uncompressed mono sound or a new 5.1 DTS-HD track, so that you can jam to Simple Minds in your preferred way. Beyond the deleted scenes and visualized production notes, new to this edition are on-camera interviews with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, and many archival materials that haven’t surfaced on other recent editions, including a vintage Today Show appearance by the cast, audio interviews with Hughes, and a This American Life episode in which Ringwald recalls the first time she watched the movie with her kids, and saw it from the adults’ point of view. There are also a few extra features, such as a Nelson-Hall commentary and a retrospective documentary, carried over from the 2008 “Flashback Edition” of the film. All told, it’s several hours’ worth of bonus material, and very little of it is filler. This is not just the exhaustive special edition which The Breakfast Club has long deserved, but a benchmark by which the rest of 2018’s home video releases can be judged.


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