The Class attempts a Breakfast Club update, but ends up being more misery porn than homage.
It has been 37 years since John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club graced the silver screen and ushered in a new era of films aimed at teenagers, stories that had the audacity not to portray its characters as simple-minded horndogs, but as complex individuals desperately trying to make sense of both the world around them and their precarious emotional states. Hughes treated his protagonists as equals, never deigning to talk down to them or make them feel inferior. One could certainly argue that state of the average teen flick has regressed over the years — thanks, American Pie — and times have certainly changed, so a remake of that seminal work isn’t exactly heresy. To be clear, writer-director Nicholas Celozzi’s new teen dramedy The Class is not a direct remake of The Breakfast Club, but to call it a reimagining wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate, credits be damned. Hell, we even get original Brat Packer Anthony Michael Hall in the mix, this time playing the stern authority figure originally embodied by the great Paul Gleason — and let it be said upfront that Hall is no Gleason, although Gleason never had to enact particularly lame bits of physical comedy like doing a backwards summersault into a large potted plant, which is what the original was sorely missing if you ask The Class.
You see, Celozzi’s film isn’t about a group of troubled teens at a Saturday morning detention session, but rather a group of troubled teens at a Saturday morning drama class final exam make-up session, the results of which will either allow them to graduate high school or send them to summer school. The stakes are high, dear reader. Also, this film trades in an all-white cast for a culturally diverse group of individuals, all of whom look like they stepped off the pages of an old school Benetton ad. Such a modern-day touch is certainly appreciated, but also scans as a tad disingenuous, especially when the script only hints at using it in meaningful ways, often times backing down in obvious fear of offending anyone. There are also six students this time around instead of five, with Celozzi adding Jeff Spicoli into the mix, making one wonder if the filmmaker is aware that Fast Times at Ridgemont High was an entirely different movie. We’ve got the Brain, Jesse (Hannah Kepple); the Athlete, Max (Colin McCalla); the Basket Case, Casey (Lyric Ross); the Princess, Allie (Juliette Celozzi); the Criminal, Michael (Michael Sebastian)… and then the Spicoli, Jason (Charlie Gillespie). To be fair, Jesse isn’t really the Brain, as at no point does anyone mention her impressive intellect, but she does sing, so ok, the Singer. Yeah, The Class is breaking boundaries. They have all gathered because their obnoxious drama teacher, Miranda — played by ‘80’s pop songstress Debbie Gibson, of all people — believes this all-day session will prove therapeutic, their final exam being a dramatic scene they must write and act out. Meanwhile, assistant principal Faulk (Hall) is around to constantly belittle both her and the kids, because this woman apparently needs a babysitter. But he’s honestly right to be wary, as this adjunct is out of control, carefully building up and then breaking down these kids all in the name of art therapy. Or something. Honestly, this individual would have been fired ages ago, regardless of good intentions or curricular ideology.
The Breakfast Club worked so brilliantly because it was so simple, the story of a group of disparate teens who learned to both embrace and defy their social labels by discovering the common ground they shared. The Class truly believes itself to be thematically no different, when in reality it’s about six teenagers who don’t so much bond as tell the saddest stories you’ve ever heard and basically guilt one another into feeling sorry for them. The problems faced by the kids of The Breakfast Club were universal because they were so relatable and authentic to a broad teenage experience; The Class piles on one horrific backstory after another, thinking that all it takes to be meaningful in its modern-day setting is to throw out such provocative and controversial buzzwords as “abortion” and “Columbine.” For the record, the student that confesses that they have terminal cancer wins this particular sad-off; that the film throws this out as the second confession tells you where Celozzi’s priorities lie — sorry, but cancer isn’t sensationalistic enough, tough luck, kid. Pity the student who has to follow that act and simply comes out of the closet, which is somehow, someway treated as an even more shocking revelation. Perhaps if Celozzi had anything resembling filmmaking chops, or if the acting wasn’t across-the-board terrible — save for Ross, she’s a keeper — more could be forgiven. It’s inevitable that someday, someone will make a worthy successor to The Breakfast Club. The Class certainly isn’t it, performative wokeness be damned.
Published as part of Before We Vanish — September 2022.