Wednesday, February 08, 2006
So, What Did Happen to John Hughes?
John Hughes ruled the 1980s. From 1982 to 1991, you couldn't turn around without another John Hughes movie coming out. He directed eight of them -- Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Weird Science (1985), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), She's Having a Baby (1988), Uncle Buck (1989), and Curly Sue (1991). His films created the concept of a "Brat Pack" and launched the careers of many of its members, most notably, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Judd Nelson. He practically gave a career to John Candy, who appeared in many Hughes films. In addition to the films he directed, Hughes also wrote National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982), Mr. Mom (1983), Vacation series (starting in 1983), The Great Outdoors (1988) and Home Alone (1990). But, when the 80s ended, so, it seemed, did the audience's desire for Hughes' brand of comedy, a formula he honed and repeated (repeatedly). His films were easy to recognize -- large part crude comedy, a touch of sentimentality, mixed with hyper-realistic characters in crisis, and a dose of mayhem. The formula, which hit a chord in the 80s, fizzled fast in the grunge-oriented, "whatever" attitude of early 90s teens. When a couple of retreads of his old approach didn't work (Dennis the Menace, Baby's Day Out) -- and following an overly sentimental remake of Miracle on 34th Street -- Hughes went "Disney" for a while, writing the screenplays for the remakes of 101 Dalmatians and Flubber. He hasn't directed a film since 1991 and his most recent writing effort, the Jennifer Lopez flop Maid in Manhattan, barely made the radar. But something tells me that even if his films no longer play well with audiences, we need not worry about Mr. Hughes who, I would imagine, reaped a sizeable windfall from the (Vacation and Home Alone) franchises he created, now 20-plus years ago.