Marshall Fine felt it would be ungracious to cut John Hughes down to size following his passing last August (as I sorta kinda did by re-posting Richard Lallich‘s 1993 “Big Baby“), but he’s taken exception to the Oscar telecast tribute to Hughes, especially considering the concurrent omission of Farrah Fawcett, James Whitmore and Bea Arthur in the death montage.
I agree with many of Fine’s condemnations, but not when it comes to Planes, Trains and Automobiles — leave that film alone!
And you can’t tell me that Walter Matthau‘s pajamas-in-the-bathroom sequence in Dennis the Menace isn’t funny. When he shrieks like a banshee after squirting the spiked nose spray, and then we cut to a long shot of his home with the simultaneous sound of a dog barking in the neighborhood, and then the basin shot as Matthau dunks his head into the water? Sorry, but that’s funny stuff.
“John Hughes? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Yes, yes, I know — he’s a GenX (and even GenY) god, the man who got teenagers. But a lengthy retrospective of clips and a rogues’ gallery of former teen stars singing his praises?
“Hughes was a mediocre director and prolific writer who wrote more than three dozen films and directed eight. And of those, there are about three that stand the test of time: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“Those are the three films in the Hughes’ oeuvre which, early on, had me convinced for a moment that Hughes was a genuine talent. Then he began repeating himself. And then he turned to cranking out bad comedy after bad comedy – unalloyed trash like The Great Outdoors, Career Opportunities, Beethoven. Worst of all was a remake of Miracle on 34th Street that modernized the original by removing the storyline in which Kris Kringle’s sanity was questioned, substituting instead a charge of pedophilia. Talk about a laugh-getter.
“Of the scripts Hughes wrote, a few had the quality of Pretty in Pink (which he remade two years later as Some Kind of Wonderful). Many more, however, had the scope of garbage such as Curly Sue, Dutch, the numerous Home Alone sequels and Dennis the Menace. The original Home Alone? Lots of laughs – but it also contained a level of sadism usually not seen outside a Looney Tunes cartoon (and which Hughes himself surpassed in the dreadful Baby’s Day Out).
“Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Both were an uneasy and highly uneven mix of class-comedy (or, more accurately, low-class comedy) and schmaltzy sentimentality. No matter how mean Hughes was to his characters, he always tried to put a lump in the collective throat of the audience at the end, as though this redeemed the mediocrity.”