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MOVIES OF THE ‘80s : TEENS AND EMPTY DREAMS

Hollywood is full of professional teen-agers. You have to sympathize with a young star like Matthew Broderick when he complains: Gee, I’m 25 already. Can’t I play an adult now?

Most teen movies today aren’t really films--they’re just commercials. They sell the sweet smell of success. Kids used to be rebels without a cause, now they’re stubborn little troupers, triumphing over adversity in every imaginable pursuit. Just think of the recent films which offer these tidy vision quests: “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” “The Karate Kid,” “Vision Quest,” “Youngblood,” “Crossroads,” “American Anthem.” (Did we leave out a few hundred other examples?) Is it any wonder today’s teen heroes are such amiable nonentities as Rob Lowe and Michael J. Fox?

The real victims of Hollywood’s obsession with this kiddie-machismo are today’s young actresses, who are generally treated like sexual cannon fodder--they should have anti-strip ‘n’ search clauses written into their contracts. Molly Ringwald is a deserved star--she has the enchanting spunkiness of a young Shirley MacLaine. But where does that leave Laura Dern and Mary Stuart Masterson, who have to clear a path without John Hughes leading the way?

And what of the much-maligned Hughes, whose uncanny knack for capturing teen mayhem and self-absorption seems to have soured in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a smug celebration of the New Conformity? Hughes has such a feel for the vivid rhythms of school-locker slang and such a fondness for the tragi-comedy of adolescent romance that you’d hate to see him turn into just another pitch-man for swollen, self-righteous teen dreams.

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NOTABLE FILMS: Risky Business (director, Paul Brickman), Better Off Dead (director, Savage Steve Holland), The Breakfast Club (director, John Hughes).


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