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The Column

Paging John Hughes
6/6/04

Somewhere between Kuwait and Waco, my generation lost one of the most valuable resources we were blessed to have: John Hughes.

Hughes is the writer behind "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Breakfast Club" and every other great movie you ever saw. The unofficial founder of the Brat Pack, Hughes' work includes "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink," "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," "She's Having a Baby," and the first three "Vacation" movies. And in 1990, he was responsible for one of the top grossing films of all time, "Home Alone."

Of his first 17 movies, 10 were fantastic, and another four were pretty darn good. But what's more important, Hughes was the voice of the 1980s. If that damn "Children of the 80s" forward ever started re-circling, someone should edit it to discuss how freakin great John Hughes was. WAS.

John Hughes is still alive. And he's still writing. But I say we lost him because all indications are that he is no longer writing for us.

After Home Alone in 1990, something inside him must have snapped. Hughes may have realized he was too successful, had too much money, or was positively impacting too many people. Because after "Home Alone," came "Dutch." And after "Dutch" came "Beethoven." Followed by "Home Alone 2" and "Dennis the Menace" and "Beethoven's 2nd" and "Baby's Day Out" and "Home Alone 3" and "Beethoven's 3rd" and "Beethoven's 4th" and "Home Alone 4" and "Maid in Manhattan" and "Beethoven's 5th." There was some other crap in the middle there, but you get the idea.

I should point out that Hughes wrote the screenplay for only some of those, and just the story or characters for others. But he had to have known how terrible those stories and characters were – on the Beethoven movies and Maid in Manhattan, Hughes didn't even use his real name.

Hughes was 35 when Breakfast Club came out, yet he managed to capture the angst and social hierarchy of a high school perfectly. So why, at 53, is the only thing he's capturing is rights to a straight to video sequel?

The day I realized John Hughes had stopped writing good movies terrified me. As a writer, because it made me worry that I might get soft. But more so as a kid. Because if John Hughes can willingly stand behind "Baby's Day Out," then I guess we will all get old sometime.

We lost Eddie Murphy, too. Murphy went from Axel Foley to Pluto Nash, using the same reasoning Hughes gave - he wanted to do more kids movies. Which is fine, but why not good kids movies? And Hughes doesn't even have Murphy's Shreks to bail him out. Though after Daddy Day Care and Haunted Mansion, the price of Eddie Murphy's bail ran pretty high.

We need John Hughes back. America has been living scared for a large part of the last two years. We were scared of terrorists and unemployment and SARS and unemployed terrorists with SARS, and we do not need to be scared of "Home Alone with Beethoven's 9th."

I know it is unfair of me to expect that Hughes will entertain me. I'm sure he has his reasons for what he has done (though "Maid in Manhattan" is pretty inexcusable). But I do think it's fair to lament what we had. And what we had was a genius who helped us realize that we were all a brain, and an athlete, and a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal. What we now have is a dozen movies about dogs or kids solving crime.

John, if you are reading this, and I know you are because you've apparently got nothing better to do, we need you. And we don't need a made for TV "Vacation" film or a remake of an old Disney movie. We need you to forget about the easy money of sequels and adaptations and create another Cameron Frye.

We need you to help us get through high school and family vacations and our first job. We need you to show us that growing up is a part of life, and that getting old isn't the worst thing that could happen. We need you to be there, speaking for those of us who are still unsure of what we'd like to say.

And not like in "Baby's Day Out" because that was ridiculous.

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