The 1980s were the heyday of Donkey Kong, parachute pants, Cabbage Patch Dolls, New Coke, break dancing, and of course, deliciously funny teen comedies. Hollywood still pumps them out by the cartload, but the Golden Age of adolescent humor dates back to the days when a new Brat Pack film was guaranteed to play to sold out houses. Dozens were released, but few had the impact of Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which became classics of the genre and touchstones of the Reagan years and are now included in a new set of DVDs called I Love the 80s.
FOOTLOOSE (1984): 3 ½ STARS
In Footloose Kevin Bacon is Ren McCormick, a city boy who comes to a small town where rock music and dancing have been forbidden. This one is better than you remember. Once you look past the dated clothes and hair, you’ll find a compelling story with a breakout performance from Bacon. Also of note is John Lithgow as the Reverend Shaw Moore. He’s the movie’s bad guy, the preacher who forbids toe tapping music but Lithgow actually gives him some dimension, playing him as a man of conviction and not simply a fundamentalist crack pot. Worth a second look and not just for nostalgic reasons.
TOP GUN (1986): 3 STARS
Long before Tom Cruise pounced on Oprah’s sofa he was Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, a cocky fighter pilot assigned to the elite Top Gun training school for advanced fighter pilots. His trip into the “Danger Zone” made Cruise a superstar and in the process made his famous lop sided grin an eighties pop culture icon. If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, it could also be said that Tom Cruise has the smile that sold a million movie tickets. Top Gun is wall to action with a pulsating soundtrack and great dogfights, but slows when Cruise opens his mouth and actually speaks.
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986): 3 STARS
Dismissed by critics when it was first released, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s portrayal of wiseacre Bueller’s (Matthew Broderick) efforts to fool his parents and high school principal into thinking he’s sick, when, in fact, all he wanted was a day off, was called irresponsible. Directed by John Hughes, fresh off the success of The Breakfast Club, the movie is essentially a series of skits or vignettes strung together to make a whole, and while funny and engaging it doesn’t have the resonance or pathos of his other classic teenage outings like The Breakfast Club or his script for Pretty in Pink.
PRETTY IN PINK (1986): 4 STARS
A 1980s teen classic. Although the pretty-girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the- tracks story is predictable Pretty in Pink is elevated by a good cast featuring Molly Ringwald as the above mentioned girl, Jon Cryer as Ducky, her new-wave-loving best friend and Andrew McCarthy as the rich guy she falls for. Their efforts, (plus the always dependable Harry Dean Stanton), keep the movie from becoming too overly sentimental. It’s not deep, but it is good heartfelt teenage drama with a great soundtrack and a good script by teen guru John Hughes.
SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (1987): 3 ½ STARS
Probably the least remembered title in the series Some Kind of Wonderful is one of the best films of the five. John Hughes’s film about a tomboy (Mary Stuart Masterson) whose romantic feelings for her best friend (Eric Stoltz) are awakened when he scores a date with the most popular girl in school features good natural performances from Masterson and Stoltz, a simple but effective story and smart dialogue.