At this year's Academy Awards, a group of time-weathered former teen stars gave a loving tribute to their common tutor, professional parent and friend John Hughes. A Michigan born screenwriter turned producer/director; Hughes changed the careers of his colleagues, including Molly Ringwald, Chris Columbus, Anthony Michael Hall, John Candy and Macaulay Culkin, as well as the lives of many of the young fans of his films. But why?Like the aged Brat Packers said during the heart-felt eulogy, perhaps no man (or filmmaker) was able to authentically channel teenage angst, rebellion and love better than Hughes. He chronicled his own experiences through idiosyncratic dialogue and played these scenarios out the way he saw fit in his iconic films; but what made them resonant, what brought him unimaginable success throughout the 1980s and 1990s was that he was able to accurately portray the "every kid" in America with his quirky characters. He took the most popular jocks in the classroom and proved that they were not only as flawed and fragile as the science geeks, pom-pom princesses and rotten rejects, but that they were "all in it together".
Further and more importantly, he showed an entire generation of misfits and mallrats that any guy can get any girl; that no dream is out of reach. This theme has evolved, but has been carried on in the works of Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused), Kevin Smith (Mallrats, Clerks) and particularly Judd Apatow, who uses similar oddball characters and unorthodox coming-of-age situations to deliver a romantic comedy that falls into a class and category all its own while avoiding the tired trends of the genre. These men helped re-define what it is to be an American teen by re-writing the template for contemporary romantic comedies. Their collective influence can be seen in Paramount and DreamWorks Pictures new release, She's Out Of My League.
The title itself summarizes a common theme from many of Hughes' films like Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful and even The Breakfast Club. Let's take a look at a few of those common threads:
The Girl Of His Dreams: One element of Hughes' films lends itself to all rom-com's: the Hot Chick. There's always an enviably beautiful and greatly desired lass at the center of this genre and, whether it be Kelly LeBrock's "Lisa" in Weird Science, Lea Thompson's "Amanda" in Some Kind Of Wonderful or Molly Ringwald's "Andie" in Pretty In Pink, these starlet's continually drive the narrative. Newcomer Alice Eve fills those shoes just fine for us. Take a look at the cover of Maxim.
With Friends Like These: Another recurring character-type in these films is that of the pessimistic partner(s) in crime, the guys who are hoping the protagonist gets the girl but usually can't help busting his chops along the way. Pretty In Pink's Blane had Duckie and The Geek in Sixteen Candles constantly got berated by his pals Cliff and Bryce. Would Knocked Up have been the same without wisecracks from Jay Baruchel Jason Segel, Jonah Hill and Martin Starr?
She's NOT Out Of Your League - Will Smith's Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens once said: "any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet". Sorry Hitch, but John Hughes taught us that while you were getting dumped by your college sweetheart. With enough dedication (and maybe a little luck here and there), even an outcast like Judd Nelson's Criminal can win the heart of Molly Ringwald's Princess in The Breakfast Club, just like Superbad's nerds Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) were able to eventually win over the much cooler and much hotter Becca and Jules. With that in mind, I think that Baruchel's Kirk will do just fine with Eve's Molly.
Would John Hughes have approved of She's Out of My League? Hard to say. What we do know is it's certainly trying to follow in his very big, and now very missed, shoes.