Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) takes a sometimes absurd but ultimately realistic view of human behavior as it chronicles a period encompassing three Thanksgivings of a New York City family and people in their circles. It’s consistently and gently humorous, occasionally sneaking in a gut-busting gag, as it slyly builds toward its overarching message that these four sisters will continue to love each other no matter what conflicts they get into.
Admittedly, I don’t watch a ton of movies with a baby in the lead role, but I gotta assume “Baby’s Day Out” (1994) – despite coming in the midst of his paycheck-grabbing 1990s remakes and light kiddie fare – is among John Hughes’ most creative concepts. How many movies follow a baby crawling around the big city? This is one of Hughes’ good, not great, films, but director Patrick Read Johnson perhaps works harder to achieve that level than most merely good films because he has to get a performance out of a baby.
When committing to do a series reviewing every entry in a writer’s catalog, I know there are gonna be some duds to slog through, and I was fearing “Dennis the Menace” (1993) and “Flubber” (1997) in my John Hughes project. Of these two reworkings of midcentury properties – the 1951 comic strip (which was also a TV series) and the 1961 movie “The Absent-Minded Professor” — at least one of them is not too annoying, but it’s not the one I would’ve guessed.
Writer-director Miranda July’s “Kajillionaire” (2020) exists a half-step away from reality, always unapologetically weird but at the same time heartrendingly true. It’s a more delicate take on the themes tackled so well in the larger-scope foreign films “Shoplifters” and “Parasite,” encouraging us to examine nature, nurture and societal influences – and the good and bad aspects of them all – in families.
Two John Hughes staples – animals and pratfalls – are on display in his original, clunky-but-likable “Beethoven” (1992) and his slick live-action adaptation of “101 Dalmatians” (1996). The latter is the better film (and it’s perhaps why Hughes uses his own name there, and the pseudonym Edmond Dantes on “Beethoven”), but out of the two, “Dalmatians” also feels more like a mass-appeal product.
Cobra Kai,” which recently dropped its 10-episode third season on Netflix (after two years on YouTube Premium), has come along at a perfect cultural intersection where storytellers give fans what they want and actors don’t hesitate over small-screen roles. What was a pipe dream of “Karate Kid” fans a scant few years ago has become not only reality, but also one of the elite must-watch shows on TV. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
Career Opportunities” (1991) is an often likable but ultimately unfocused entry in writer John Hughes’ oeuvre. Like the two armed robbers being distracted by Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly) riding a mechanical horse while wearing a tight tank top, I sometimes forget why I’m at this Target store in the first place. In their case, it’s to rob it for supplies; in my case, it’s to watch a thoughtful coming-of-age dramedy. In both cases, we get sidetracked.
Because of the reputation that the “Home Alone” films precipitously drop off in quality after part two, I had low expectations for director Raja Gosnell and writer John Hughes’ “Home Alone 3” (1997), and ended up rather liking it. Alex D. Linz gives an endearing child performance as 8-year-old Alex Pruitt, whose snowy Chicago neighborhood is invaded by four industrial-espionage agents trying to reacquire a valuable computer chip that’s in Alex’s toy monster truck.
Everyone gets along merrily in “Last Christmas” (2019), director Paul Feig and co-writer Emma Thompson’s holiday trifle inspired by the bittersweet George Michael song of the same name. Setting the tone, Kate (Emilia Clarke) has a nice conversation with a guy in a pub, then we smash cut to the next morning where she’s still looking gorgeous in the guy’s bed but – silly Kate – the guy’s girlfriend shows up. And it’s not to be; but oh well: On with the 20-something’s flighty, horrible-but-actually-delightful rom-com life.
John Hughes wrote five Christmas or Thanksgiving films between 1987-92, but with their adult humor and – in the case of the “Home Alones” — violence, arguably none of them were appropriate young viewers. His Nineties update of “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994) rectifies that. Directed by Les Mayfield and based on the 1947 film written by George Seaton, this “Miracle” is ideally suited for kids on the borderline between belief and nonbelief in Santa Claus.