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'The Breakfast Club' 1985 review: Nothing you haven't heard before

Anthony Michael Hall, left, and Judd Nelson star

Anthony Michael Hall, left, and Judd Nelson star in the 1985 John Hughes classic "The Breakfast Club." Credit: Universal Pictures

"The Breakfast Club" is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a special theatrical re-release on Thursday and next Tuesday. Here is Newsday's 2-star review of the movie, that ran on Feb. 15, 1985, in which critic Joseph Gelmis said that a good cast was limited by the film's group therapy format.

In "The Breakfast Club," five students at a Chicago suburban high school bare their souls to each other during nine hours of detention one Saturday in 1984.

Their main topic, as they toke up and open up, is their parents. Their parents don't understand them. Their parents make their lives miserable by paying too much attention to them or not enough.

"My home life is unsatisfying," says a student. "Well," says another, everyone's home life is unsatisfying. Otherwise nobody would ever leave home." Someone asks, "Are we gonna be like our parents?" The reply: "It's unavoidable. When you grow up, your heart dies."

The father of the jock (Emilio Estevez) does his thinking for him. The brain (Anthony Michael Hall) has contemplated suicide because his father demands straight A's. The brutish father of the rebel (Judd Nelson) beats him.

When they finish explaining what's wrong with their parents, they analyze their other big problem: peer pressure. These five kids -- the three boys and two girls, an upper-middle-class princess (Molly Ringwald) and a congenital recluse (Ally Sheedy), acknowledge they are prisoners of a student caste system that segregates them.

It should be clear, at this point, that "The Breakfast Club" is a group therapy variation on an otherwise familiar collective portrait of a high school class. Virtually the entire movie takes place inside the lofty school library and a few other rooms in the building. The two adults in residence are the dean of students (Paul Gleason), jailer and bully for a day, and the janitor (John Kapelos), a pragmatist who knows too many of the institution's secrets to be a moralist.

Given the simplistic treatment of subject matter and the dramatic limitations of confining the cast and action to a single set, "The Breakfast Club" is slightly more interesting than one might expect. Writer-director John Hughes, whose previous film was "Sixteen Candles," choreographs the moves and verbal sparring and intimate disclosures of his young performers like a ritual tribal ceremony.

Nelson, as the troublemaker Bender, is very effective in the role of the provocateur who disrupts the orderliness of the detention session and leads the others in defying the rules. ("Being bad is fun, huh?" he says with a leer, before turning them on with pot.) Nelson has the best lines in the movie. When he first enters the detention room, he taunts the dean of students: "Does Barry Manilow know you raided his closet?"

Bender and the dean are natural enemies. And Bender's inflammatory disrespect goads the dean into a sanctimonious fury. It takes a few beers in the basement with the janitor, apparently a contemporary of his, to cool the dean down. "If you were 16," the janitor asks the dean, "what would you think of you?" The dean shakes his head.

As each of the five students does his or her emotional striptease, we have to respect their suffering. To share the growing pains of troubled kids is to become a godparent. You owe them your goodwill and best wishes. Finally, that's all these five students can evoke. Nothing really changes. You hear nothing you haven't heard before. But you know that for them it is happening for the first time, and they deserve compassion. I'm not sure that's a good enough reason to see "The Breakfast Club."

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Thursday and March 31, Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broad Hollow Rd.; UA Westbury Stadium 12, 7000 Brush Hollow Rd.; Island 16 Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville; AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Hwy.; and UA Hampton Bays 5, 119 W. Montauk Hwy.

INFO $12.50-$13.50;

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