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Some Kind of Wonderful
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by Scott Weinberg

"The best John Hughes movie that John Hughes didn't direct."
5 stars

Often regarded as the forgotten stepchild of cult favorite 'Pretty in Pink", "Some Kind of Wonderful" is notable in that it’s an improvement over its cousin in nearly every conceivable capacity.

Look past the role reversal plot machinations that often seem a Xerox copy of the earlier film, and what you’ll find is a film with stronger acting performances, a warmer heart, and characters that seem considerably more “real” than those in the Molly Ringwald/Andrew McCarthy mini-classic.

By the end of the 1980’s, John Hughes’ teen-angst inspiration seemed to dry up just a little. (Indeed, Some Kind of Wonderful is the last movie Hughes was connected with that could be termed a teen flick.) After writing and directing a quartet of fondly remembered teen flicks (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Hughes became a Hollywood institution unto himself. Touted (deservedly so) as one of the only filmmakers with a true ear for the way modern teenagers communicate, Hughes graduated into more grown-up forms of comedy with the wonderful Planes, Trains & Automobiles and the vastly underrated She’s Having a Baby.

But before Hughes was willing to leave his high school friends behind, he penned two screenplays and offered them to director Howard Deutch. Pretty in Pink marked Deutch’s debut feature, which was followed a year later by Some Kind of Wonderful. (Hughes would throw Deutch more work down the road in the form of The Great Outdoors.) Pretty in Pink came first, so logically it would seem like the original while Some Kind of Wonderful would be relegated to well-meaning ripoff status. (Personally, I think Hughes banged these two screenplays out at the same time, so similar are the characters, themes, and story lines.)

The plot is as you remember: Teen A (PP: Molly Ringwald, SKOW: Eric Stoltz) is from the wrong side of the tracks and has the hots for the upper class Teen B (PP: Andrew McCarthy, SKOW: Lea Thompson). Teen C (PP: Jon Cryer, SKOW: Mary Stuart Masterson) is a longtime friend (and secret admirer) of Teen A, while Teen D (PP: James Spader, SKOW: Craig Sheffer) is a painfully evil stuck-up bastard.

Both films succeed thanks to generally winning performances and some deceptively smart screenplays, but Some Kind of Wonderful is easily the more realistic of the two, plus it contains a handful of characters you’ll grow to actually care about. (Forgive me, but the characters in Pretty in Pink seem about as real as do Judy and Elroy Jetson.)

Let’s start at the top: Nothing in Pretty in Pink comes close to SKOW's enjoyable lead performance offered by Eric Stoltz. The longtime indie actor brings a stunning amount of warmth and depth to his lovestruck character Keith Nelson that every woman who sees Some Kind of Wonderful virtually falls in love. Male viewers will see a sympathetic and independent character they wouldn’t mind being pals with. Stoltz’s performance alone makes this a worthwhile expenditure of 90 minutes, but the good stuff doesn’t end there.

The supporting cast is excellent across the board, offering John Ashton (as Keith’s father) in one of his best performances ever, Lea Thompson (TV’s "Caroline in the City") at the top of her game (as the rich girl with a heart), Mary Stuart Masterson (Keith’s longtime friend Watts) delivering one of the best portrayals of a sarcastic and disaffected teen ever set to film, and the ever-oily Craig Sheffer as the hatefully snobbish big man on campus. The characters may be stereotypes, but the acting is superlative... which makes the characters infinitely less cliched.

Few filmmakers have been able to capture the off-center and strangely unforgiving high school caste system like John Hughes has. None of his films would ever be considered densely plotted, but his ear for bizarre slang and the warm-yet-tentative way teenagers communicate elevate his early work into a collection easily worth seeing. They didn’t exactly talk like this when I was in high school, and I was a teen during Hughes’ peak “teen flick” output, but I anticipated his next projects rather excitedly. Not because they were the peak of realism, but because they were as close to ‘high-school reality’ as Hollywood dared to offer. Plus, every teen flick ever penned by Hughes is just plain old funny.

I risk the wrath of a million teenagers when I say this, but considering how popular movies like Swimfan and She’s All That were, I think it’s a shame that every high-school generation doesn’t have a John Hughes of their own to enjoy. Oh, and I nearly forgot: Some Kind of Wonderful, like all of Hughes’ high school movies, has an absolutely fantastic soundtrack chock-full of generally-overlooked 80’s bands.)

Note: Lest I sound like a spineless John Hughes fanboy, let me state clearly that I think the filmmaker has long since retired to a life of overfed hackdom. Since about 1990, Hughes has done nothing but churn out really awful remakes and sequels. I mean, who wouldn’t like to see a 20 years later sequel to "The Breakfast Club"?? Sadly, Hughes now seems content to stamp his name on Disney remakes and "Beethoven" sequels, entirely wasting his obviously impressive talents for plain old “good dialogue”.

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originally posted: 05/03/04 21:15:17
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User Comments

3/25/18 Ed Riddick Appreciate it more now than 30 years ago. Great performances. 5 stars
2/23/18 TJ Honestly the only 80s film I still love today as an adult. 5 stars
5/31/17 Richard A lovely, sweet film that stuck with me, due to MSM's performance, since I saw it in 1991. 5 stars
3/03/10 Sharene Amazing. At the end of the film, I end up caring about/loving 99% of the characters. Bravo 5 stars
4/11/09 Dane Youssef Hughes continues to be the philosopher of the adolescent age. Another one of his to see! 4 stars
5/18/08 Kate Excellent Film! John Huges is the master of teen flicks! 5 stars
5/11/07 Simon Frederiksen (1979) Impossible to resist to Watts charm (Masterson) - she steals the picture. 5 stars
1/03/06 cody a good 80's teenage flick with good acting and well told story about two friends l 4 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson Well directed and acted, but E. Stoltz is the only weak link and behaves stupidly. NOT BAD. 4 stars
8/10/04 Filby My favorite movie. Absolutely wonderful in every way. 5 stars
5/04/04 Joseph Cicala Fine 1980's fare and a great soundtrack to boot! 4 stars
4/29/03 Buko Impossible to resist to Amanda (Lea Thompson) 5 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby Second-rate, forced John Hughes effort. Really condescending to the audience. 2 stars
2/05/03 natasha_theobald friendship turns to love - a classic tale well told 4 stars
4/28/02 Rdub hated the cheese 2 stars
12/09/01 The $1.98 Pyramid Great 5 stars
2/20/01 Caitlin Hagness it sucked, nothing happened at all 1 stars
9/29/00 Bender Underrated John Hughes teen movie. 4 stars
4/19/99 jimmy jam Loved the story. See it with the one you love or yourself dosen't matter 5 stars
4/07/99 Rachel Sutton It's a sweetheart of a film. 5 stars
10/10/98 {{{OZ}}} Young Stoltz and young Masterson. What a team. 4 stars
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  02-Feb-1987 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006


  02-Jul-1987 (PG)

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