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The Brat Pack: (noun) A group of highly successful young people engaged in the same profession. Or, to put it another way; a bunch of actors who, for a short period in the 1980s, couldn’t seem to get enough of working with each other. Scholars agree that the gold-card members are Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy  and Demi Moore and the brat-pack movies include Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Outsiders.

If you wish to brush up on your Brat Pack history, then help is at hand in this set containing three of their collective efforts. It's a similar affair to a boxset that was released in region one in 2005. The Breakfast Club remains, but Sixteen Candles and Weird Science have been sacrificed to make way for St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night.

Brat Pack Collection, The


The Breakfast Club
A small group that consists of a brain (Anthony Michael Hall), an athlete (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy), a princess (Molly Ringwald) and a criminal (Judd Nelson) are forced to spend their Saturday at school as punishment for their various misdemeanours. As the day progresses, they swap stories, annoy the adjudicating teacher and come to realise that there is more common ground between them then they could have possibly imagined.

In the grand-scheme of John Hughes’ eighties teen-movies, The Breakfast Club is pitched as the half-way house between Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s not as focused on angst as the former, and not as light-weight as the latter. That said, there’s a good mix of both ingredients to create one of the quintessential eighties movies. With its single setting and skeleton cast, it’s also a fairly brave film; managing to hold our attention by concentrating on the development of the relationships between our characters rather than the intricacies of a complex plot.

The majority of the acting plaudits go to Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall. Nelson is clearly enjoying himself as criminal Bender, the most heavily comic character, while Hall puts across an un-clichéd performance as Brian the brain. Stopping them stealing the show is Paul Gleason, in a wonderful turn as the bad guy, Principal Richard Vernon. Director John Hughes often portrayed authority figures in a bad light, but the difference here is that Vernon is not presented as a comic character; particularly noticeable in a hard-hitting scene where he tells Bender precisely what he thinks of him.

Brat Pack Collection, The
Essentially, the problem with The Breakfast Club is that, at times, it takes itself far too seriously. The angst-ridden finale where the characters finally confront their problems is overblown and lessens the effect it has on any viewers who are not of the same age as the characters.

If you can get over this minor quibble (and the contrivance that each high-school stereotype is conveniently represented at detention), there is much to enjoy about this features. As teen-movies go, it's one of the rare must-sees; honest, funny and able to withstand repeat viewings. Reviewed separately The Breakfast Club is a solid 8/10.

St Elmo's Fire
A collection of seven former school-friends realise that life doesn’t get easier when they are forced to reconsider their relationships; Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) holds a secret crush that threatens to destroy the marriage of Alec (Judd Nelson) and Leslie (Ally Sheedy), Wendy (Mare Cunnigan) and Billy (Rob Lowe) enjoy an off-again, on-again romance, Jules (Demi Moore) seems intent on self-destruction and Kirby (Emilio Estevez) attempts to woo an old class-mate.  

Too many characters, too many storylines; that’s the main problem with St Elmo’s Fire and it’s a problem which becomes all the more evident as we reach the end of the film. A few loose threads would not have been a huge problem, but struggling to come up with one decent resolution for any of our characters shows a huge amount of laziness on the part of the screenwriters.

Brat Pack Collection, The
At first glance, St Elmo’s Fire seems to be a quasi-sequel to The Breakfast Club. It was released mere months later and with several of the same cast members switching high-school roles for post-college characters. However, although Nelson, Estevez and Sheedy are present and correct, none of them is playing a similar character to their earlier role. Viewed together in this set, it’s admittedly enjoyable to contrast Nelson’s criminal from Club, with the humourless yuppie he plays here. Indeed, sometimes it's a welcome distraction from the gaping holes in the story.

If there’s a contemporary successor to St Elmo’s Fire it’s arguably TV’s Friends, which also has intertwining plotlines and diametrically opposed characters. The difference is that, for the most part, Friends was a pretty funny comedy; an accusation that cannot be levelled at St Elmo's Fire. It would help if the characters were even vaguely likeable but, with the possible exception of Andrew McCarthy's lovelorn Kevin, there are so hopelessly wrapped up in themselves, that the inevitable fall-outs are something of a relief.

Despite these misgivings, St Elmo's Fire still remains a watchable movie and is an essential part of Brat Pack lore. As a standalone film it garners a score of 6/10.

Brat Pack Collection, The
About Last Night
Love-birds Danny (Rob Lowe) and Debbie (Demi Moore) seem to be perfectly matched, but can their romance survive the rows and misunderstandings caused by the tempestuous relationship shared between their two best friends?

Initially, About Last Night appears to be a romantic comedy, but since it’s neither particularly romantic nor comic, it instead must pitch itself firmly in drama. Concentrating on the contrived hard-ships on an eighties couple is something of a chore, especially since Demi Moore never quite settles on what kind of character she wants to play and Rob Lowe’s performance is far too bland.

Less-than-able support comes in the form of James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins as their interfering and, ultimately, irritating friends. Belushi’s name will forever be succeeded by the tag ‘John’s brother’ and here he proves that he can’t quite pull of his sibling's winning formula of being obnoxious, yet charming. Perkins, more recognisable as Tom Hanks’ love-interest in Big, never manages to reveal a softer side to her characters; always coming across as overly harsh and cynical. Ultimately, the pair fail to back-up the protagonists with any great success and it would be up to Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally to show actors how it should be done.

All of this would be forgivable if About Last Night had an interesting plot but its origins from a stage-play (David Mamet's ‘Sexual Perversity in Chicago’) are evident in the heavy focus on dialogue. The formula seems to be to show us a scene of Debbie and Danny being very much in love, and then follow it with a scene of them arguing. All very realistic, maybe, but not particularly insightful. Or entertaining. Reviewed separately, About Last Night gets a forgettable 4/10.

Brat Pack Collection, The
The Breakfast Club sports a 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and, also, the best of the transfers. It's less than outstanding, but there's minimal grain and a general lack of dirt and grime. It's a shame that the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of St Elmo's Fire hasn't been afforded the same treatment as there are artefacts visible throughout the feature. About Last Night fares little better with muted colours and a lack of sharpness. A 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio does the honours.

Don't expect to test the limits of your audio set-up with this collection, as all of the films have a heavy focus on dialogue. The Breakfast Club is the only one of the three to be treated to a 5.1 Dolby Digital and a 5.1 DTS track (previously available on the standalone disc). It's a genuinely pleasing effort with the minimal sound effects presented well. And, yes, that infamous Simple Minds song sounds pretty good too.

The other two films are not quite as impressive in terms of sound. About Last Night is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which performs the job in a no-frills manner. St Elmo's Fire has been given a 4.0 set-up, but there's limited use of the extra speakers and occasionally the dialogue sounds muffled.

Those expecting a wealth of extras when they select 'Bonus Materials' on the disc for The Breakfast Club will be disappointed as it takes you to a sub-menu populated by nothing except a trailer for the movie. One has to wonder why this was not simply made accessible from the main menu.

Even worse is the disc for About Last Night which consists of nothing but 'talent profiles', which are actually heavily abbreviated résumés of the director and stars.

Best of the bunch is the disc for St Elmo's Fire which affords us a director's commentary as well as the aforementioned trailer and talent profiles. The chat-track with Joel Schumacher is worth a listen for fans of the movie, although his frequent claims that there is a lot of focus on comedy may baffle more cynical members of the audience.  

Brat Pack Collection, The
One of the laziest releases in quite so time; this isn't so much a collection of re-releases as a simple case of re-packaging three old discs in a nice new box. The Breakfast Club is crying out for a special edition but, alas, the discs here are sorely lacking in bonus materials.

Furthermore, the fact that this set isn't even a definitive Brat Pack collection means the whole exercise is a little pointless. It's possible that you'll save money by buying this set rather than buying the discs separately, but only one of these films is truly worthy of a place on your shelf...and you've probably got it already.

One last problem; distributors have a fondness of these kind of collections but it negates the whole effect when the films have different BBFC certifications. The Breakfast Club should be of huge interest to teens of the noughties, but when lumped together with the, more adult-orientated, About Last Night, no one under eighteen years of age can legally purchase it...