Friday Movie Roundup: Goodbye, John Hughes

Aug 7, 2009 at 2:30 pm

John Hughes, the writer and/or director of such 1980s staples as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, died of a heart attack yesterday at age 59. That sucks for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that few filmmakers made popular entertainments with as much heart, authenticity and wit as Hughes, and fewer still did it in the largely vapid genre of teen comedy. —-

Hughes directed eight films in eight years (1984-1991), many of which remain touchstones to disaffected youth everywhere due to their mix of sensitivity, sharp dialogue, penchant for badass soundtracks and keen eye for fresh talent. His most obvious and fruitful discovery was Molly Ringwald, a uniquely affecting actress whose ’80s run seems even more of an anomaly when compared to today’s cardboard teen queens. Is it any surprise she would never again be the same when Hughes stopped making movies in the early ’90s?

Though he continued to contribute to scripts for mostly mediocre films under the pen name Edmond Dantes, Hughes had become increasingly reclusive following the massive success of the Home Alone movies (which he wrote and produced), a turnabout that somehow made him seem even nobler in a profession that rarely sees (or allows) its stars fade gracefully. (For proof of the guy's nobility, check this blog tribute, which actually relays some of the reasons Hughes decided to stop making movies.)

The Breakfast Club’s immortal John Bender once said, “Without lamps, there’d be no light.”

Well, without John Hughes, there’d be no John Bender, Ferris Bueller, Neo Maxi Zoom Dwebbie, Molly Ringwald, Duckie, Principal Vernon or Clark Griswold.

Oh, and I guess I should mention this week’s opening films, a sparse group that includes a live-action adaptation of G.I. Joe, yet another ace performance from Meryl Streep and, sadly, nothing approaching the singular qualities of a John Hughes movie.

Opening films:

G.I. JOE — Veteran Hollywood director Stephen Sommers directs this live-action version of the TV cartoon series. On the plus side, the cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt. On the negative side, the TV show was based on an action figure. I give this a 50 percent chance of suckage. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon

JULIE & JULIA — Meryl Streep does it again in Nora Ephron’s drama about a young secretary who is obsessed with cooking guru Julia Child (Streep). (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C

A PERFECT GETAWAY — David Twohy’s thriller centers on two pairs of couples who encounter murderous psychopaths while on vacation in Hawaii. The guys are played by Steve Zahn and Timothy Oliphant; the ladies by Milla Jovovich and Kiele Sanchez. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon