PRETTY IN PINK - DVD review

Pretty in Pink is clichéd, stereotyped, remarkably sentimental, and sweet as all get-out.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio

Note: In the following joint review, both John and Dean provide their opinions of the movie, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.

The Film According to John:
There is nothing new in the story of a rich kid falling for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, but when John Hughes writes it, you know people are going to sit up and take notice. This was especially so a couple of decades ago when Hughes practically owned the 80's comedy-drama scene with movies like "Mr. Mom," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Weird Science," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," and "Uncle Buck."

Paramount, ever to know a good thing when they see it, have released the romantic teen comedy "Pretty in Pink" in several different editions over the years, this latest one being a part of their "I Love the 80's" collection. Although the 1986 motion picture gets new packaging and comes with a CD of 80s' music, it is, otherwise, a bare-bones edition.

With "Pretty in Pink" Hughes teamed up with director Howard Deutch in the first of three films that Deutch would direct from a Hughes script and the first-ever big-screen film Deutch would make in his career after doing a series of music videos. Deutch would go on to do "Some Kind of Wonderful" (1987) and "The Great Outdoors" (1988) with Hughes, both of them better films.

The plot of "Pretty in Pink" is older than "Romeo and Juliet" and shows us little that we don't anticipate, yet it manages to capture the heart, which makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.

Molly Ringwald, who had already done "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" for Hughes, plays teenager Andie Walsh, one of her high school's have-nots. Her father has been out of regular work since the mother walked on them several years earlier. And as a senior she's experiencing boy trouble, so there's nothing new in that department. Andrew McCarthy plays Blane McDonnagh, a "richie," one of the school's affluent kids. His family expects him to associate only with people of his own class and eventually to marry someone as well off as they are. He falls for Andie, and the plot begins.

Here's the thing: If we only had these two people falling in love, they're so nice and so lovable, we wouldn't have a story. So Hughes has to contrive a conflict for them, and it isn't much. On the one side, we've got a dorky young man, Phil "Duckie" Dale (John Cryer), following Andie everywhere, hopelessly in love with her; and on the other side we've got Blane's best friend, Steff (James Spader), trying to poison Blane's mind against Andie.

And, really, that's about it. But like all of Hughes's stories, the details are in the characterizations, not only the main characters but the supporting players as well. Ringwald holds the movie together, of course. She's not a raving, ravishing beauty as are so many young starlets; rather, she's cute without being glamorous. More important, she is able to break the viewer's heart. When she tells Blane, "I don't want you to see where I live," it's one of the film's most touching moments. And when the ending comes, predictable or not, we're with her all the way. McCarthy has a more problematic role because we're never entirely sure about him or his motives. He seems nice enough, and we're rooting for him, but will he turn out to be as big a loser as the rest of his rich friends?

The secondary characters are delights. John Cryer could have simply been annoying in the over-the-top role of Andie's childhood friend and devoted admirer, yet he, too, grows on the audience and makes us proud of him. Plus, he's the only person in the film who made me laugh. Can't beat that. Then there's the dean of character actors, Harry Dean Stanton, as the father. Who'da thunk? After seeing him play so many sneaky, quirky, goofy, sometimes downright undesirable characters, here we see him play one of the most charming, most engaging guys on Earth. It's nice to see. Then, Spader plays his patented snake in the grass; no surprises there. And Annie Potts plays Andie's older, if not particularly wiser, friend in a part that seems like a throwaway.

Also in the cast in minor roles we find Andrew Dice Clay, Gina Gershon, Dweezil Zappa, and Kristy Swanson before audiences recognized their names as well they do today.

Yes, the film has heart and eventually wins the day, but it's an uphill battle with stereotypes and clichés every inch of the way. All of the girls in Andie's school, rich or poor, are slim, white, and beautiful. With the possible exception of Blane, all of the high school's "richies" are horrible people, ready and willing to humiliate any poorer student. Likewise, the poorer students are ready and willing to punch out any rich kid if they get the chance. With the exception of Andie's dad, parents don't exist. To ensure that we know Andie is poor, she dresses like Annie Hall and drives a beat-up old Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (pink). Ironically, the fact that she has a car at all and an answering machine and at least three boys chasing after her tend to lessen our sympathy for her. The two rich kids, Blane and Steff, drive a BMW and a Porsche respectively. In addition, it's 1986 and computers are still using DOS operating systems, yet Blane is able to send two photographs to Andie via computer, and they pop up on the screen almost instantly. I couldn't have done that in 1986. (I can barely do it today.)

Anyway, as I say, Andie and Blane seem so right for each other, it's a wonder the movie developed any conflict at all. Nevertheless, it does, and "Pretty in Pink" manages in the end to turn in a winning performance. It's a lightweight, teenage romantic comedy with a lot more emphasis on the romance than on the comedy, which is probably exactly what its female audience wanted at the time and what most of us probably want today.

John's film rating: 6/10

The Film According to Dean:
Director Howard Deutch and writer John Hughes teamed up for their first collaboration in the classic romantic comedy "Pretty in Pink." Joining John Hughes again in this picture is Molly Ringwald in the lead role, marking the third time the red-haired actress was the lead in a John Hughes film. Hughes had previously directed Molly Ringwald in "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles." With a great cast and Hughes's wonderful writing, "Pretty in Pink" is a cute little comedy that brings back the colorful and odd Eighties.

Molly Ringwald, Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, and James Spader are among the familiar names that appeared in this 1986 production. Andrew McCarthy, Gina Gershon, and Andrew Dice Clay are among other familiar faces that lent their talents to "Pretty in Pink." Ringwald, Cryer, and McCarthy are the three actors who are thrust into a love triangle (a theme mirrored in another Hughes/Deutch collaboration, "Some Kind of Wonderful") and all three are entertaining and believable as love-struck teens. McCarthy and Ringwald are especially good as high school seniors who are from conflicting cliques but find strong feelings for one another.

Jon Cryer is Duckie, the lifelong friend of Ringwald's Andie Walsh and somebody who is oblivious to pretty much everything except his feelings for Andie. Cryer's performance is whiny, over-the-top, and meant to provide the laughs. The audience either loves Duckie or hates him. Personally, Duckie annoyed me tremendously throughout the film. There were times when I laughed, but generally I found Duckie pathetic and tremendously boring. I know a good many people who think Jon Cryer deserves praise for his role, but I felt "Pretty in Pink" would have been a better film if everything wasn't quite so ducky.

Annie Potts and James Spader play friends of the two principal actors. Potts is the older friend of Andie and is hopelessly trying to pass as a younger woman and ignore her true age. She is a voice of reason for Andie and also helps keep Duckie from slitting his throat over Andie wanting to be with Andrew McCarthy's character, Blane McDonnagh. James Spader is Steff, a rich creep who thinks his friend needs a beating for dating a poor girl. Spader's performance reminded me heavily of the film he starred in just before taking part in "Pretty in Pink." That film, "The New Kids," found Spader as a redneck creep who thought he was the absolute most incredible male around. In "Pretty in Pink," he is a rich creep who thinks he is absolutely the most incredible male around. Spader's characters truly can be great creeps.

"Pretty in Pink" is a cute little romantic comedy where writer John Hughes once again looks at love crossing social boundaries during teenage years. As was the case with "Some Kind of Wonderful," the best friends find themselves pitted against one of the characters, but ultimately find themselves thinking differently of the love interest. In "Pretty in Pink," the best friend is left out of a relationship and with all of Duckie's pouting and wallowing, I didn't feel bad for him. "Pretty in Pink" is more romantic than it is funny; at least it is if you simply cannot wait for the comedic relief to leave the screen. When you compare the film to the rest of the Molly Ringwald/John Hughes trilogy, it takes the last spot. "The Breakfast Club" is far superior, and "Sixteen Candles" is a better film. Perhaps having Hughes hand over the directorial reigns to Howard Deutch is the reason, but Deutch and Hughes's "Some Kind of Wonderful" was better, too.

Dean's film rating: 6/10

Video:
Once you get over the fact that the movie contains a modicum of grain and a very slightly rough appearance, it looks quite nice. The colors in this 1.85:1-ratio, anamorphic widescreen picture are bright and natural, never overpowering the scene. Darker areas of the screen are a tad murky, true, and skin tones are not always entirely realistic. What's more, definition can be somewhat soft even by standard-def criteria. Still, the overall impression is one of solidity, depth, and clarity, and when the image looks good, it as good as anything you'll see in SD.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is hardly necessary and barely does what it can with the movie's soft-pop-rock background score. The overall sound is a touch hard and forward, but it displays good transparency, perhaps as a result. There is a little ambient musical activity in the surrounds and a reasonably wide stereo spread. Otherwise, it's a rather ordinary soundtrack.

Extras:
On this "I Love the 80's" disc, Paramount give us the movie only and nothing else, unlike their "Everything's Duckie" special edition that came a few years earlier with a slew of extras. The main bonus item here is the inclusion of a CD called "Music from the 80's," which contains four songs: "Lips Like Sugar" with Echo & the Bunnymen, "Chains of Love" with Erasure, "Need You Tonight" with INXS, and "Take On Me" with a-ha. In addition, the movie disc has English and French spoken language choices, English subtitles, and fifteen scene selections. The keep case and disc come housed in a special slipcover that matches the case.

Parting Thoughts:
"Pretty in Pink" is clichéd, stereotyped, remarkably sentimental, and sweet as all get-out. Thanks to a great cast playing appealing characters, even the slower, more-predictable parts of the movie go down fairly comfortably. This is not one of John Hughes's best efforts, but it's not hard to see why the film became as popular as it did.

The Paramount folks are reissuing about forty films from the 1980's in their "I Love the 80's" series, among them "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Footloose," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Big Top Pee Wee," "Popeye," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "Urban Cowboy," and many more.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
7
Extras
3
Film Value
6