TORONTO – Danielle McNally is an 18-year-old high school student who loves the raunchy hit comedy “Superbad” as much as the next teen, but her all-time favourite movies are ones that were made before she was born: “Sixteen Candles” and “Say Anything.”
“The stories are just so simple but they’re so funny,” McNally says of the 1980s cinematic classics that are still popular among today’s teenagers.
“I love ‘Superbad,’ but it is kind of gross in places, and those movies weren’t and that’s definitely part of what I like about them,” she says while on her lunch break at a downtown Toronto high school. “They were just funny and sweet. My friends and I never get tired of watching them.”
Films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink” – all of them from John Hughes – are still so big that they are among some of those most commonly rented movies on Zip.ca, Canada’s online movie rental service.
Of 72,000 films in the Zip.ca catalogue, “The Breakfast Club” – the high-school detention caper that starred Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson – ranks No. 794, an impressive showing considering its age and how many modern-day blockbusters it’s competing against.
Other Hughes classics and films from Cameron Crowe, including “Say Anything” and
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” are also popular rentals.
Film critic Richard Crouse says the Hughes films, in particular, represent the glory days of teen movies largely because they so perfectly portrayed genuine adolescent angst amid the belly laughs.
“The John Hughes movies are the gold standard of teen films,” says Crouse, the film critic on CTV’s “Canada AM.”
“For the first time, kids with real problems who weren’t really afraid to talk about them and take action were seen on screen. Those films have a real insight into what matters to kids, and what still matters to kids. They had a huge impact on the films that came after them, for sure, but I think they were done best back then, and that’s certainly why they’re still so popular.”
But is there a renaissance afoot for the teen comedy genre? Crouse suggests producer Judd Apatow and Canada’s Seth Rogen, who wrote the screenplay for
“Superbad” when he was a teen and stars in the stoner film “Pineapple Express” this summer, seem to be making a play for the crown.
“Superbad is really racy in parts, but the characters in it – the three boys – were likable, smart and funny and they had real teen problems,” Crouse says of last summer’s Rogen/Apatow hit comedy.
“If we do indeed have another teen comedy heyday, it will be a different kind of movie – they’ll be more like ‘Superbad’ than ‘Sixteen Candles,’ that’s for sure, so perhaps not quite as innocent,” he says.
“But the thing about ‘Superbad’ and ‘Pineapple Express’ is that Seth Rogen wrote those scripts when he was a teenager, so there’s serious authenticity there. It gives him a real leg up on 40-year-old screenwriters pumping out something that they feel will appeal to kids.”
There’s no question Hughes, who now lives a low-key life in Chicago, has profoundly influenced Rogen and Apatow.
Apatow has long called Hughes a major inspiration dating right back to his short-lived TV cult favourite “Freaks and Geeks,” starring Rogen and James Franco (who appear again together in “Pineapple Express.”)
“John Hughes wrote some of the great outsider characters of all time,” Apatow recently told the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s pretty ridiculous to hear people talk about the movies we’ve been doing, with outrageous humour and sweetness all combined, as if they were an original idea. I mean, it was all there first in John Hughes’ films. Whether it’s ‘Freaks and Geeks’ or ‘Superbad,’ the whole idea of having outsiders as the lead characters, that all started with Hughes.”
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