Unsung Hughes

Recently, a Facebook friend described herself as an 80s kid. This made my brain blink for a moment because I have always thought of myself as such. However, in my case it means I was teenager during the 1980s, rather than being born during this turbulently day-glo era. So, I'm not going to get into an ownership tussle. If someone wants to claim a decade in which they were a embryo, so be it. Based on that reasoning, I claim Woodstock and the Moon Landing.

But back to the 1980s. No one better defined the decade for teenagers (the other 80s kids) than American filmmaker the late John Hughes. He of SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984), THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986) and PRETTY IN PINK (1986). He also made more adult oriented fare such as TRAINS PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) however somewhere along the line he became the go-to guy for family films like HOME ALONE (1990) and DENNIS THE MENACE (1993). He stopped directing after CURLY SUE in 1991, but wrote numerous screenplays.

Why did we youngsters like Hughes? Well, let's face it, there was a certain amount of outrageous pandering to the audience. "All adults are work obsessed androids who only care about enforcing the rules and making you do what they tell you to do."  This was more or less the unsubtle picture of adult life that he drew. But compared to what had passed for teen rom-com previously, Hughes captured a certain truth and boy was he good at weaving in those pop songs into zany montages.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I just discovered the trailer to CAREER OPPORTUNITIES (1991). It was written and produced by Hughes and is presented in this promo as though he directed it, but like 16 CANDLES, which is also though of as a Hughes film, this was directed by another.

But could it be more Hughesian? A zany off-beat hero who has yet to find himself. A hot heiress who wakes up in a Target after hours. The very same Target where our hero is a trainee janitor! They get to play around with all the merch and confess their insecurities. Probably they discover their respective parents screwed them up and also get to utter memorable dialogue. Not "necessarily "Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?" but along those lines.  And then BOOM! they get held up by comedy bandits.

I'm going to spend the next couple of days tracking down this quasi John Hughes movie and see why it rates a mere 5.8 stars on IMDB. I can't say why it didn't set the world on fire in 1991. Possibly because Hughes's time as Monarch of the Teens was up. Possibly because he didn't direct this. And let's face it, Frank Whaley and Jennifer Connelly are about as unconvincing a match up as Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby in HIGH SOCIETY (1956). Still I'm hoping to find plenty of signature Hughesian comedy, emotional revelation and carefully placed pop hits of the era.

I'll keep you posted.


P.S. I have since seen this and now fully understand the low rating. It is a terrible film. Frank Whalley is essentially miscast in a role that is part-Ducky, part-Ferris and wholly annoying. His shtick gets old very fast indeed. Jennifer Connelly was cast for her high level of  kevorka and yet is sufficient in her role. She at least seems like a character and not a yammering caricature like Whalley. Unfortunately, her role is undermined by some of the director's framing and composition choices which are frankly exploitative.  This flick is entirely missable unless you're some kind of film obsessive or Hughes completist. 


Anonymous said…
Woah man - on video cassette!
Phil Jeng Kane said…
Ain't nuthin' more up to date than that!