[box cover]

St. Elmo's Fire

Ah, the quandaries of the '80s — finding the perfect high, making that first million, having sex with everything that moves — and all without a cell phone. In retrospect, Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire is a snapshot of this greediest of decades in America, where yuppies roamed free to wreck havoc without a thought to the consequences to themselves or others. The film stars a group of emerging actors who were on their way up the Hollywood ladder and includes Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, and Emilio Estevez. Along with John Hughes' The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire had the effect of propelling these actors into the spotlight and stardom, but the downside was the label "Brat Pack" (coined by a critic), which portrayed them as overpaid and out of control. (The moniker haunted some of them who never overcame the label and their association with the film.) The movie tells the story of a band of recent college graduates who are bright, driven, selfish, egotistical, and trying to make the leap from adolescence to adulthood. Each character represents a type — the over-achieving political boor (Nelson) and his creative, ambitious girlfriend (Sheedy), the shy disaffected intellectual (McCarthy), the fat chick (Winningham), the frat boy (Estevez), the bad-boy rocker (Lowe), and the femme fatale (Moore). The group's attitudes and aspirations are perhaps best expressed by Jules (Moore), a little girl in grown-up clothes whose relationship with her married boss is causing her life to spin out of control. "So, I bop him for a couple of years, get his job when he gets his hands caught in the vault, do a black mink ad, retire in utter disgrace, then write a bestseller and be a talk-show host on my own talk show." The stereotyping leaves little room for depth of character, although the talented cast sporadically rises above the material to allow the occasional authentic moment to slip through. But beyond the film's many obvious shortcomings, St. Elmo's Fire itself is sheer, dumb, schmaltzy fun. Watching these beautiful people cavort, drink, smoke, and snort with abandon is somehow strangely compelling. It's like Friends without a conscience, full of characters who suffer at their own hands as they make one stupid decision after another. Oh, to be young, destructive, and self-absorbed! Columbia TriStar's DVD offers an original featurette consisting mostly of clips, but also with some short cast interviews. Also included is the John Parr music video for the title track and a relatively amusing audio commentary by Schumacher, who offers some tidbits and stories about the actors with respect to their various careers over the intervening years. The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and the saturated colors look sharp. However, the Dolby Digital 4.0 audio doesn't quite do justice to the rock soundtrack and David Foster's catchy score. Trailers, filmographies, production notes. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall

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