John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
In the first illustrated celebration of the late icon, John Hughes: A Life in Film traces the early beginnings of Hughes’ career at National Lampoon before taking Hollywood by storm with a string of hits including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Featuring new interviews from close friends and frequent collaborators, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s retrospective love letter to the enduring impact of Hughes‘ films is also complimented with rich visuals throughout the auteur’s extensive career.
Synonymous with capturing the feelings and heartaches of youth like no other, Writer/Director John Hughes defined a generation with his endless streak of comedy hits. Since his untimely death in 2009, Hughes‘ legacy has only increased with time, influencing audiences and fellow artists alike. Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film guides the reader through Hughes‘ career from his early days in advertising before abandoning ship to write for National Lampoon. A heavy chain smoker who often worked late through the night, Hughes churned out gold at an alarming pace that quickly caught the attention of Hollywood. A devoted husband and father firmly rooted in his midwest surroundings, Honeycutt pulls back the curtain on the generally private family man who just so happened to capture the teenage voice of the 80s. Detailing his screenwriting efforts on Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation before stepping up to the directorial plate, Honeycutt rightfully spends considerable time on the genesis and production of Hughes‘ landmark opuses, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. From the discovery of his muse Molly Ringwald to revealing behind-the-scenes stories, Hughes‘ ear for music and marketing genius is also well documented. As the young at heart creator’s popularity increased and his empire grew, more hits including Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles followed, allowing Honeycutt to detail Hughes’ friendship and working relationship with the late John Candy. In addition, other Hughes productions including Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful are covered that shed light on the sometimes difficult relationship Hughes shared with fellow collaborators.
While Hughes’ career achievements are expertly detailed, Honeycutt tends to jump the gun in several areas to discuss films that will ultimately be covered later in the book. In addition, Honeycutt spends a mere two pages discussing Hughes‘ rejuvenated interest in the Vacation franchise that gave way to 1989’s Christmas Vacation. Long considered a holiday classic and arguably the best sequel of the series, Honeycutt unfortunately dismisses the charmer as a “tepid affair”. Fortunately and appreciatively, the later half of the book spends considerable time exploring films under Hughes’ producing eye including Home Alone, Dennis the Menace and the fascinating nightmare production of Baby’s Day Out. Furthermore, Director Patrick Read Johnson (Spaced Invaders, Angus) provides insight into the rewarding and tumultuous relationship shared with Hughes that makes for some of the book’s most intriguing stories. Hughes‘ partnership with Disney birthing the live-action redo of 101 Dalmatians and Flubber is also covered along with unrealized and ahead of their time concepts including The Bee leaving readers curious at what could have been.
With a heartfelt forward provided by Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), John Hughes: A Life in Film is an excellent companion piece to Hughes‘ cinematic offerings. Author Kirk Honeycutt provides ample information on the late icon’s works with countless interviews from Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Jeffrey Jones, Steve Martin, Jon Cryer and many more. While high profile titles like The Breakfast Club are covered at great length, lesser appreciated works like Curly Sue and Hughes‘ many producing credits are thankfully given their time to shine much to the delight of film enthusiasts. Honeycutt’s insight into Hughes‘ loving family life and tearjerking friendship with John Candy make for some of the book’s more humanizing moments. Bursting with colorful photographs and fueled with genuine passion for its subject, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film nicely captures the complexities and genius of the eternally youthful Hughes.
Available now from Race Point Publishing, John Hughes: A Life in Film can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.