Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “The Breakfast Club.”
The Movie: “The Breakfast Club ”
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald
Director: John Hughes
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Five high school students meet in Saturday detention and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88 percent
Froemming: Last week, we rotted our brains with the stupidity that was “Glitter,” a movie that brought Mariah Carey, Joe Brown and I to the brink of sanity. This week, I decided we should head back to the 1980s and the teen comedies that made John Hughes a household name.
I picked “The Breakfast Club,” a movie that examines a day in detention with a stoner, a jock, a preppy girl, a goth girl and a dweeb WHO BROUGHT A (REDACTED) GUN TO SCHOOL!
Yes, that’s right. Brian brought a gun to school. Sure, it was a flare gun, but that somehow makes it worse for me. I knew something was off with him and his cold, Ted Bundy-like dead eyes and his (kinda racist) blues man impressions.
As for the others being stuck there for a whole Saturday:
- Andy taped a kid’s butt cheeks together in a hilarious prank.
- Claire skipped school to go shopping.
- Bender pulled a fire alarm, which was also a hilarious prank.
- Allison is just bored and showed up.
So imagine their surprise sharing the same sort of punishment as that sociopath.
OK, Brown while I scream and somehow break windows with my vocal cords, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: Watching this movie today is just an example of what you could get away with in the ‘80s. Between all the gay bashing and the frequent use of the F-word in a PG-13 movie, it’s definitely a product of its time. Also, probably a movie someone who hates PC culture would point to and complain why we’re not like this anymore.
I mean, this is “The Breakfast Club,” a movie that seemingly everyone in our generation loves. And I’ll say it now: It hasn’t lost any of its charm, even if some of the dialogue and actions are so painfully ‘80s and there’s no real plot to speak of.
Literally, they sit in detention for eight hours and then it ends. Yeah, they have deep conversations and get into shenanigans, but it’s still a day in detention.
Now, while I keep pondering how anyone thought Judd Nelson could pass as a teenager during casting of this movie, I’ll let you lead us off here, Froemming.
Froemming: You’re right on that. Bender even has gray hair. Maybe it is a “21 Jump Street” scenario that got cut in post? I dunno.
Brown: I looked it up. Judd Nelson was 25 when this movie was filmed. He looks like he’s going on 35.
Froemming: It is Saturday, March 24, 1984 and our group of teens are heading to school to fulfill their punishment for their horsin’ around earlier in the week. I’m glad when I was in high school, I just sat in detention in the school week. No way in hell they would have gotten me to come in on a Saturday. Also, I spent most of my school week in the detention room, because I was a real pain in the butt at that age.
Brown: Right?! What student… hell, what teacher/administrator would come in on a Saturday just to make sure five kids sit in the library for eight hours to think about what they did? Hell, Bender apparently does this routinely.
Save that (REDACTED) for after school Monday.
Froemming: Assistant Principal Vernon may make $31K a year (he mentions this oddly specific number to Bender. Why? I have no idea), but I think he has no social life outside the school. He spends every Saturday there keeping tabs on old Bender.
Anyway, we meet the teenagers as they are coming in. Andy is a jock and his dad advises him that he got in trouble as a youngster too. This is all fine and well, because Andy has a meet the following Saturday and he can’t miss it.
High school sports, man. In 20 years, Andy will be reliving those days like Al Bundy looking back on his glory days at Polk High.
Brown: Andy is really into his wrestling, but as we see later when he gets high and starts going crazy, I’m sure all he wants to do is DANCE!
Also, I forgot this movie starts with a David Bowie quote and then the screen shatters? This is all I could think of.
Alas, no one started chugging beer and dishing out stunners. There were a few middle fingers in this movie, though.
Froemming: The calm of the day is ruined by our rebel Bender. You know he is edgy because he wears sunglasses inside. And you know he and Vernon have a long, rich history of hating one another, because they yell at each other like an old married couple.
Bender comes in and immediately starts dropping some hard truth bombs on our group of kids. Like pointing out Brian is a dork. I couldn’t have said any of that better myself. Brian must not have known he was a nerd, otherwise why would Bender have to point it out all the time? It’s a sobering reality for Brian, a kid WHO BROUGHT A GUN TO SCHOOL.
Brown: My question is how in the town of Shermer, Illinois, where Jay and Silent Bob hoped to start a drug business before finding out it was a fictional town, how does no one know about why Brian is in detention? It’s high school. Gossip travels fast. Plus, I think a flare gun is going to cause a panic.
But no, his reveal later on is SUPER SHOCKING.
Froemming: It was the ‘80s man. Teachers swept the whole “unhinged teen brings a gun to school” under the rug.
Brown: Yeah, but wouldn’t a fire alarm go off? Of course, this is a public school so perhaps the fire alarms are just painted on the walls.
Froemming: Vernon demands that each of them write a thousand-word essay on who they think they are. Look Vernon, the only one capable of writing something like that is the dork who was going to go all “Jeremy” on the school before his flare when off and melted a ceramic elephant lamp. He also informs them that they cannot talk or sleep for the whole eight hours, which they break right away because these kids don’t know how to shut their traps.
Brown: It was alarming that Brian’s mom rags on him to find time to study and do homework. Hey lady, your son brought a GUN TO SCHOOL. Perhaps consoling is in order and not so much yelling at your kid who is already on edge and is moments away from becoming Christian Slater in “Heathers.”
So the kids are all in detention, Vernon’s already warned everyone to not mess with the bull or they’ll get the horns. You know, all the good stuff. And then the law of the jungle kicks in and everyone is at each other throats because they’re in different cliques. Well, namely it’s Bender being a sarcastic ass that Froemming and I have both grown into. Except we don’t throw around gay slurs at everyone or have a locker to hide weed that features a noose and a guillotine.
Considering how old he looks, I think Bender’s weed is for his glaucoma. He is aggressively NOT a teenager in this.
Froemming: First things first, they need to shut the door so old man Vern won’t catch them gabbing away. Bender, because he is basically Fred O’Bannion from “Dazed and Confused” in this — he must have flunked a lot and is in his 20s and still in high school — decides to use what little he learned in shop class and takes a screw out of the door, causing it to not stay open.
This gets Vern all angry, and rightfully so. These kids are horsin’ around and not writing their insanely long essay about themselves. He tries to put a chair in the way to hold it open and it comically slams shut on him.
This was when it dawned on me that Vernon is as stupid as the students he is punishing. He just had to maneuver the chair in a way that would keep the door open by jamming it close to the one closed door, keeping the other open ajar. It was pretty simple to see, but this moron couldn’t figure it out.
For all his cool devil horn gestures, I learned a hard truth about this man Vernon. The man is a bit dim.
But Vern gets the last laugh here. After getting mad at Andy for placing the magazine rack or whatever in the doorway, even though he told him too, he and Bender go at it. The more Bender rebels, the more detention he gets. It skyrockets up to two months.
Does Bender enjoy spending his Saturdays like this? It seems so, because he kept egging on Vernon. He even told the old man to eat his shorts, which would become the mantra for Bart Simpson a few years later.
So you give the stoner and, presumably, loser two months detention. But you just gloss over the kid who hazed another student because he has an unhealthy relationship with his dad? And you don’t get the kid who BROUGHT A GUN to school the therapy he needs?
Vernon, find the real problem here.
Now, I want to take a second to fawn over Allison, who is both very cute to me and has the best visual jokes in the movie. Namely, when Bender shows Andy that he has a knife by stabbing it into a chair. Then in a quick shot, you see Allison just steal the knife. I had a bigger laugh at that than I should have.
Then it dawned on me that between liking Allison and having a celebrity crush on Winona Ryder, I think I have a thing for dark-haired kleptomaniacs.
I’m currently Googling therapists in west central Minnesota.
Froemming: I liked Allison a lot too, and I hated how the movie ends for her. Message: Change who you are and you can date a high school jock.
Anyway, we get more banter here (this movie is basically a cinematic bottle episode) where Bender and Andy butt heads because Bender is dropping hard truths on these folks.
Bender and Andy almost go at it, but Bender then declines, citing he doesn’t want to get sued by Andy’s parents for killing him. This was years before this exact same scenario happened to O.J. Simpson, acquitted of brutal murder but taken down by a civil suit. Bender, for all his faults, has a keen legal mind here.
We also meet the janitor, who I like a lot.
Brown: I also enjoyed the work of Carl the janitor.
Froemming: When Bender mocks the man, he just smiles knowing that in a few years John Bender will either be a janitor like him or, more likely, dead.
There seems to be a history between these two, and I kinda wanted to know more about that. But I did enjoy how the janitor says he knows everything and digs around their lockers when they are not around. He may not make a lot of money, old Carl, but you know he never has to pay for pot because he can just steal it.
Brown: I was about to say, Carl has definitely stolen weed from Bender. I was kind of hoping with that tidbit, when Carl and Vernon are having their own conversation they would be smoking some of Bender’s weed. Instead, they’re drinking Old Style like our old faculty advisor at the college paper. That beer needed to stay in the ‘80s.
Now, as enjoyable as this movie is, this is a hard one to critique the way we do. It’s so dialogue driven that it’s harder than, say, an action movie, to really point out things. All the dialogue is delivered well and believably (despite Judd Nelson having an AARP membership compared to everyone else). That’s not a knock on this movie because John Hughes really knew how to tap into a teenager’s mind in that point of time.
Also, 33 years after this movie comes out, an homage to this movie found a way to come into the public consciousness thanks to right-wing politics, which all sound like Vernon in this movie.
Froemming: I don’t like getting too political, but the fact right-wingers got mad at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for dancing is straight out of “Footloose.” In that is was stupid, like the movie “Footloose.”
To speed things along, it is lunchtime, and we see what our teens live off of.
Well, Andy’s lunch is three sandwiches, a bag of cookies, a whole box of potato chips, some fruit and a carton of milk. In 10 years, Andy will probably be suffering from obesity and probably diabetes. Dear lord that was a lot of food.
Brown: So Andy is a state champion-caliber wrestler, so I get him needing a lot of food. But it’s all junk food. Like, a family-sized bag of chips? And cookies? He’s in a sport where he has to maintain weight, so whoever packed his lunch from looked like the Food-N-Stuff Ron Swanson shops at did a terrible job. It’s like Andy knew he was gonna smoke weed and get the munchies.
Froemming: He does have a banana, so that makes up for all the carbs and sugar.
Claire is eating sushi, which I have never tried, but I probably wouldn’t want to eat at room temperature like she does.
My favorite though is Allison eating the butter and Cap ‘N Crunch sandwich. I’d be lying if I said I never tried that in my life.
Brown: How was it?
Froemming: Not very good. It’s just sugar and butter. Like an elaborate version of lefse. But crunchy.
It is here we have Bender once again making noise about everyone, and we find out that Bender’s homelife is not the best. His dad is abusive, probably because of all that paint Bender spills in the garage, and burns the “boy” with cigars. There is a silver lining I guess when we find out his dad gives him a carton of smokes for Christmas. From what I see from my friends who do smoke, those are not cheap.
Brown: I hope you also thought of this during that discussion.
Yeah, they all have problems with their parents. Claire’s parents seem on the edge of divorce. Andy’s dad is Ricky Bobby and thinks if you ain’t first, you’re last. Bender is pretty much Kenny from “South Park.” Brian has helicopter parents. And Allison’s family ignores her, to the point where they drove off immediately after she got dropped off at the school (where she is serving detention only because she had nothing better to do on a Saturday. Might I suggest sleep?).
If anything, everyone here is getting catharsis by just talking about it, even if Bender just (REDACTED) on everyone because no one has it worse than him.
Again, Bender, you need to be reminded that one of those people BROUGHT A GUN TO SCHOOL. Yeah, it was a flare gun, but he could shoot it into your chest cavity and make s’mores over the cracking hole in your torso (S/O to “Archer” on that one).
Froemming: Well, enough of the library because these kids need a good old fashioned caper to go on! What are they going to do? Grab pot from Bender’s locker, which freaks out Brian. Remember, Brian, you can always say:
But seriously, if any of these degenerate students needed the calming effects of marijuana, it would be the one WHO BROUGHT A GUN TO SCHOOL!
Brown: Weed doesn’t even calm these kids down. You see Andy doing aggressive-ass gymnastics moves after hotboxing himself?
Froemming: John Hughes thought pot and cocaine were the same thing, from what I saw in this movie.
Now they need to get back to the library before Vernon does, and Andy says he has a better way of getting there than the guy who spends every Saturday doing this. This ultimately proves to be a bad call, causing Bender to sacrifice himself to getting caught while stuffing his stash down Brian’s pants.
Bender gets caught, all right, and we see a side of Vernon that caused me to realize that not only was he incredibly stupid with that chair earlier, he is also a violent man who wants to beat up a high schooler (granted, this high schooler is 25 going on 40) and wants to fight Bender in a storage closet.
Vernon points out how much of a loser Bender is, and how he won’t be rolling in the big bucks like himself. Though with Bender’s knowledge of shop class, I can easily see him making more as a mechanic who charges rubes like me $85 an hour to fix my car than working in a public school. I also see Bender claiming on his Facebook profile decades later that he studied at “The School of Hard Knocks.”
Brown: Guys who put “The School of Hard Knocks” on their Facebook profile are the type of guys that send women (REDACTED) pics on Tinder. To any lady who has a SO with that kind of education, some advice:
Vernon’s whole deal is the kids don’t respect him anymore. Uhh, yeah, that’s what teens do. They don’t enjoy authority figures. Vernon laments about these kids will be the ones caring for him in the future and will be running the country. He may as well say that he wishes he could go back to a time when every American had a white picket fence, a chicken in a pot every night and certain folks weren’t allowed in country clubs. #MakeShermerGreatAgain
Froemming: I love how Carl points out the kids haven’t changed, he has. It’s true. We all grow up and our views change. Then I remembered how much of a dolt Vernon is, realizing this insightful speech was just wasted on him.
Bender sneaks out of the storage closet and crashes into the library, where he *checks notes* sexually assaults Claire while hiding under a desk.
Um…. Yeah, that happened. Wasn’t cool then. Not cool now. But I’m a snowflake like that.
Brown: Yeah, not comfortable bearing witness to Claire’s #MeToo moment. Bender’s a real ass to Claire, with this, his critique of her friends and Claire’s upbringing. And yet, they’ll make out in front of her dad at the end.
This movie is nothing but unhealthy relationships. The only person who isn’t a monster in this movie is Allison. May she always pour her dandruff on more pen drawings.
Froemming: Well, she does steal Brian’s wallet, lie about sleeping with her therapist and says she drinks vodka all the time. But yeah, she is the least toxic of all these people. Especially Brian, WHO BROUGHT A GUN TO SCHOOL!
Brown: I’d say a therapist could make a fortune in Shermer, but no one seems to go to one so it’d be an empty practice.
So we’ve had our fun in detention, with sneaking off, smoking weed, dancing and, in Brian’s case, making vaguely racist imitations while high. There’s still the matter of writing their essay, which Claire charms Brian into doing.
You know the moment class starts Monday, everyone’s going to revert to their usual selves. It’s like in high school where we had these “courage retreats” and everyone had a chance to apologize for being mean and/or encouraging more positive behavior. It was not unlike the scene in “Mean Girls” except we didn’t have a burn book.
About a week later, everything returned to the way it was.
Froemming: Courage retreats?
Brown: Hey man, a day out of school, I’ll take it. Plus, it was mandatory. Take it up with the Fridley School District.
Froemming: So they trick Brian into writing the essay, which is not 1,000 words. They basically stand up to Vernon and how he and everyone perceives them, which is brave but would probably get them another Saturday in detention for not doing the one thing that was asked of them.
Brown: I feel like if Vernon tried, some parent would be like, “Yo, Vernon, this is dumb. My kid’s not coming in.”
Also, you picked this movie because we did this same letter to our advisor, didn’t you?
Froemming: Yup! Here is the end speech, which Brown wrote out verbatim and put in our advisor’s box at the college paper.
The best part: Our advisor was just baffled by it. I love the man, but his grasp on pop-culture is embarrassing.
Brown, why don’t we meet our parents outside to pick us up over at recommendations?
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: For sure. It’s hard at times to not judge a movie made 30 years ago with the views of 2019, but overall it is a good movie.
Brown: Absolutely. Like many ‘80s movies, some things don’t age well. But it’s still a charming, fun movie that a lot of people can relate to thanks to the awkward magic of puberty.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:
Froemming: Also, a shameless plug for my buddy Paul, who reads the weird news of the day each week. Sometimes, you’ll find me badgering him with “Speed 2: Cruise Control” questions in the middle of some political thought he is having in the moment. Check him out. It is called And Now Weird Stuff With This Damn Guy!