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  St. Elmo's Fire The New Breed
Year: 1985
Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, Martin Balsam, Andie MacDowell, Joyce Van Patten, Jenny Wright, Blake Clark, Jon Cutler, Matthew Laurance, Gina Hecht, Anna Maria Horsford, Whip Hubley
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Four months after graduation and seven friends who came of age in university are still making a point of hanging out together, and tonight, when two of them are in trouble, they assemble at the hospital to make sure they are all right. The two are Billy (Rob Lowe) and Wendy (Mare Winningham), the wild man and the Plain Jane respectively, who got into a car crash when Billy was at the wheel, but it's fine, the only injury suffered is a bump to Wendy's head. While the friends are there, Kirbo (Emilio Estevez) catches sight of doctor Dale (Andie MacDowell), a girl he was infatuated with at university, and makes up his mind to pursue her...

And those are only two of the relationships in St. Elmo's Fire, a film overstuffed with bright young things who now scream mid-eighties. Yes, this was the work which saw director and co-writer Joel Schumacher assemble as many of The Brat Pack as he could in one place, and for many it sums up the hopes and dreams of a generation. Well, that's what you assume Mr Schumacher intended, but the only way this will bring back that decade for most is if you spent it sporting a permanent grimace. Honestly, these characters are drawn with such broad and resistable strokes that you'll find yourself willing them to fail.

And hey, they find that growing up is not as easy as they anticipated, because here is where they start learning about life. If that prospect doesn't make your skin crawl then perhaps you can buy into these people as living, breathing entities rather than the crushingly predictable bags of clichés that Schumacher renders them. It doesn't alleviate the overwhelming smugness on show that nothing these actors do will make them believable; it's one of those films that is constantly on the verge of breaking out into a pop video, or heaven forfend, a singalong. If you weren't sure where this got its title from, then John Parr's song of the same name (actually a tune about a man in a wheelchair) pops up with deadening regularity on the soundtrack.

On the subject of music, there are a few instances where it shows up the enterprise in shallow straining towards cool that naturally make the film seem about a thousand years old nowadays. Take, for example, the scene where wannabe writer Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) plays the bongos along with Aretha Franklin's "Respect" on the hi-fi while wearing sunglasses and a trilby: it's excruciatingly embarrassing, but has nothing on the scene with Rob Lowe miming playing the saxophone with his bar band, sheened in sweat with a yellow vest on and his lightning bolt-dagger earring dangling. Of course, if you're looking for cheap laughs at yesteryear then roll up, roll up.

If time had reduced St. Elmo's Fire to a dated chuckle then it would not be quite so objectionable, but have a look at the plotlines the ensemble cast have to tackle. Estevez has to act out what in later years would be a scary psycho stalker thriller as Kirbo pursues the not interested Dale as if it was all lighthearted fun, but like too many of those in the movie, he has a fatal lack of self-awareness, which is ironic considering the emotional journey they are supposed to be embarking on. Demi Moore, soon to be miles more famous than any of her co-stars, gets to essay the role of a businesswoman whose cocaine habit apparently turns her into a prostitute (and she has a huge neon-decked painting of Billy Idol on her apartment wall). Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson and McCarthy do the unenviable love triangle thing, and Winningham gets landed with the frump part, inseparable from her cardigan. You'll be glad their characters were all consigned to history. Let us never speak of this again. Music by David Foster.

[If you are a fan of this and remain unpersuaded by the above, then get yourself Sony's new Blu-ray special edition which includes commentary with Schumacher, the director reminiscing, vintage featurette and deleted scenes.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Joel Schumacher  (1939 - )

American director and occasional writer who rather unfairly won a reputation as one of the worst in Hollywood when he was really only as good as the material he was given. Starting as a costume designer (working with Woody Allen), he went onto a couple of TV movies - screenwriting Car Wash, Sparkle and The Wiz between them - and then a feature, spoof The Incredible Shrinking Woman. D.C. Cab followed, then a couple of eighties-defining teen hits, St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, and remake Cousins.

In the nineties, he was offered higher profile movies, including supernatural Flatliners, cult urban nightmare Falling Down, John Grisham adaptations The Client and A Time To Kill, blockbusting camp Batman Forever and the much-maligned Batman & Robin, and grotty 8MM. 1999's Flawless signalled a change to smaller scale works: army drama Tigerland, true life tale Veronica Guerin and thriller Phone Booth. Lavish musical The Phantom of the Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber was a Lost Boys fan) was a return to the overblown blockbusters, but it flopped, as did his conspiracy thriller The Number 23.

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