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John Hughes teen film legacy of the 1980s ends with the often underrated Some Kind of Wonderful. May be this lack of appreciation is because by the time it was released in 1987, the popularity of the teen movie was starting to wane. Or maybe it’s because Hughes fruitful partnership with muse Molly Ringwald had disintegrated, due in part to her disinterest in playing the character of Amanda Jones. Whatever the reason, Some Kind of Wonderful is often forgotten when discussion turns to Hughes films of the '80s. The film is basically the male version of Pretty in Pink, but it’s not simply a plot rehash. Is it as good as Pretty in Pink? In this reviewers opinion no, it’s probably the weakest Hughes teen outing. Yet Some Kind of Wonderful is a good enough film to be a fitting last entry in a series of teen films that remain unparalleled in their influence and popularity.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Feature
As already mentioned, Some Kind of Wonderful follows a similar plot as its predecessor Pretty in Pink. This time around the red headed protagonist is a guy, outcast student and frustrated artist Keith (Eric Stoltz), who pines for one of the popular girls in school, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson). Keith’s preoccupation with Amanda means he’s completely oblivious to the fact his tomboy best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is hopelessly in love with him. We now have our classic triangle.

When Keith finally gets around to asking Amanda out on a date, she surprises him and everyone else in school by accepting. Unfortunately for Keith, Amanda’s acceptance is motivated by her desire to show her dumped boyfriend Hardy (Craig Sheffer) that she wants nothing more to do with him.  This of course leads to the inevitable showdown between all the characters on the night of ‘the date’.  Watts, despite her feelings for Keith, acts as the chauffeur on his date with Amanda, becoming increasingly upset as the night rolls on. Amanda’s initial perceptions of Keith change significantly over the course of the evening and it seems that Keith has pulled off what he set out to do. Hardy on the other hand is hell-bent on revenge on both Keith and Amanda by inviting them both to his party after their date, where he plans to beat up Keith and make Amanda beg him to take her back. It all makes for one eventful evening, with all the characters seemingly ending up either enlightened, taken down a peg or two, or having their eyes opened to what they really what. It wouldn’t be a John Hughes movie if they didn’t.

Some Kind of Wonderful could have simply been a complete rehash of everything Hughes had done before, and in summing up the story, it’s easy to make that assumption. But if nothing else, Hughes has always, at least in the ‘80s, consistently succeeded in one area in all his movies, memorable and well rounded characters. If it weren’t for the brilliance of the writing of each character, Some Kind of Wonderful would have been an horrendous and forgettable conclusion to the John Hughes teen oeuvre.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Keith and Watts are obviously the most well drawn and intriguing characters, with Watts, just as Duckie was in Pretty in Pink, being the most complex and interesting character of the piece.  It’s obvious from the first moments of the film that Watts is infatuated with Keith and insecure about herself, and therefore can’t tell Keith how she feels. The brilliance of the character is that instead of simply sulking as it becomes clear Keith’s affections lie elsewhere, Watts helps Keith every step of the way as he tries to woo Amanda, putting herself through emotional hell in the process. Keith’s ignorance to her feelings is predominately due to his pursuit of big dreams, of doing what he wants to do, despite what Watts and his family think. But Keith is concerned with what the other kids at school think of him, and his pursuit of Amanda is as much to do with her, as it is about proving his own status at school.

While Watts and Keith are the standout characters, Hughes makes sure that Amanda becomes more than just the object of Keith’s desire. She turns out to be much more than simply the desired popular girl. In fact, it’s Amanda who pushes Keith in the right romantic direction, away from her and towards Watts. As he does in all his films, Hughes paints his characters as stereotypes of any high school at the beginning of the film, but as the story unfolds the characters become multi-layered and possess a certain amount of emotional depth, which is one of the central reasons the Hughes teen films transcend any teen focused films made today. The supporting cast is less developed, although Elias Koteas as Keith’s skinhead ally Duncan is quite memorable, as is Craig Sheffer as Hardy, who turns out to be one of the best villains of any Hughes film.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Some Kind of Wonderful actually began in the hands of talented director Martha Coolidge, whose previous teen film efforts Valley Girl and Real Genius made her an  ideal candidate for a Hughes film. Coolidge had progressed to scouting locations, decorating sets, storyboarding the entire film and rehearsing with the cast, which included some of her own casting choices, Kim Delaney as Amanda Jones and Kyle McLachlan as Hardy. Just before shooting began, however, Coolidge was replaced by Howard Deutch who promptly fired Delaney and McLachlan. The changeover was partly due to Hughes infamous contrary nature. Originally unhappy with Howard Deutch’s various decisions on Pretty in Pink, Hughes decided to give control of Some Kind of Wonderful to Coolidge. But when Pretty in Pink emerged as a hit at the summer box office, Hughes wanted to reward Deutch and so handed over the reigns of Some Kind of Wonderful to him and ousted Coolidge. The changeover occurred so swiftly and so close to the slated production start date that the only significant changes were to the cast. Deutch simply used all the sets and storyboards that Coolidge and her crew had spent months preparing.

Despite a turbulent start, which saw some of the actors having trouble adjusting to the change in directors, the overall production was trouble free and the film itself turned out to be much better than both critics and box office receipts indicated when it was released. But as stated at the beginning of this review, in this reviewers opinion Some Kind of Wonderful is the weakest John Hughes teen dramedy because despite being a well developed central character, unlike other Hughes protagonists, Keith is ultimately not very likeable. The characters in Hughes first films had a youthful naiveté and sincerity, but in Some Kind of Wonderful all the characters, with the exception of Watts, lack real appeal and are only mildly endearing. Because of this the overall film seems a little tired, as if Hughes preoccupation with teen angst was waning and he was running of things to say. Therefore, it’s fitting that Some Kind of Wonderful was Hughes last film in a series of films depicting the trials and tribulations of adolescence that no other filmmaker has managed to match in volume or popularity.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Video
The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation of the film on this special edition is a major step up from the previous release, with more natural colours and a sharper, brighter transfer. Unlike the Pretty in Pink transfer, effort has been made to make this film look as good as possible. This could even be a restored print, with particular attention paid to the colours. The previous transfer was quite dark and grain was a constant issue. This new edition is significantly brighter and clearer. The edge enhancement problematic on the previous release also seems to have been reduced. Overall, the transfer is far from perfect, but definitely a step up from the previous transfer.

Audio
Boasting both 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo tracks, the sound doesn’t appear to have been altered from the previous release, which isn’t a bad thing. The first release, while containing no extra material, actually had good transfers, and the sound in particular was impressive. Every Hughes film is complimented by a fantastic musical soundtrack and with every release of a Hughes film, sound quality is of major important. In comparing the two editions of the film the audio transfers appear to be exactly the same, which is acceptable because it’s a great transfer. Dialogue is always clear, sound is well balanced and there are no sync issues. From the opening beats of Watts drumming along to ‘Dr Mabuse’ by Abuse to the closing melodies of Lick the Tins ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’, all the music sounds great.

Extras
Dubbed a ‘Special Collector’s Edition’, there are a decent amount of extras on this release. None are particularly remarkable, but unlike the special editions of John Hughes other teen films, the man himself makes an extended, albeit vintage, appearance on this release, instead of the usual vintage sound bites that are customarily included.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Firstly, there is an interesting commentary by director Howard Deutch and star Lea Thompson. Even before I started listening to this commentary I knew it had to be interesting, because these two are married. Deutch dominates the commentary but is really spurred on by the presence of Thompson who presses him to reveal more details about certain scenes and directorial decisions. There are a few disagreements about certain details of filming and the pair remember various things very differently, but overall this commentary is much better than the one Deutch contributes to the release of Pretty in Pink. He seems more relaxed and open to discussing most aspects of the film and its production. This is likely due to the reassuring presence of Thompson.

‘The Making of Some Kind of Wonderful’ is the usual retrospective featurette with Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch all contributing. It’s surprisingly short at only eight minutes, but is a fitting introduction to the other featurettes. The biggest revelation is that Deutch and Stoltz loathed each other during filming. This meant that Lea Thompson had to act as intermediary all through production, often diffusing rather explosive exchanges between the two men. ‘Meet the Cast’ is a thirteen minute featurette that focuses solely on the stars of the film, with new interviews interwoven with 1986 on-set interviews. All the main actors are once again interviewed, along with a few of the supporting players, including John Ashton who played Keith’s father and Maddie Corman who played Keith’s annoying younger sister. There is a lot of discussion about how each actor snagged their respective roles, as well as musings about all the characters and how they change over the course of the film.

A featurette entitled ‘The Music’ obviously focuses on the carefully selected music of the film, most of which was chosen by John Hughes himself. Hughes is shown here in a vintage interview discussing the importance of music in all his movies, as well as its importance for him personally when he is writing scripts. Hughes in fact creates his own self made soundtracks while he is writing his scripts. Even though this featurette only runs for a short five minutes, almost every song from the soundtrack is discussed. The last substantial extra on this release is the ‘John Hughes Time Capsule’ which is an eleven minute late ‘80s interview with Hughes conducted by the star of his film She’s Having a Baby, Kevin Bacon. Presumably this interview was conducted for some kind of promotion for that movie. It’s an odd addition to this release, but certainly a welcome one because Hughes rarely talks about his filmmaking in any form. There is nothing especially revealing in the interview, but it’s still a great inclusion. Finally there is a small photo gallery of various promotional stills.

Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition
Overall
It’s exciting to finally see some of Hughes teen fare being given the special edition treatment, although as always it's disappointing there is no input from the man himself. This release of Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as the release of Pretty in Pink, do seem somewhat incomplete without the inclusion of deleted scenes, which it’s believed only Hughes possesses, as well as any current contribution from the writer/producer. While he didn't direct this film or Pretty in Pink, both films are always going to be known as Hughes films, so it would have been great if Hughes had offered some retrospective reflections. However, this special collector's edition of Some Kind of Wonderful is the best any fan could possible want with those issues in mind.


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