From Sixteen Candles to Baby's Day Out: John Hughes's career can be seen as one, long descent. Not that Sixteen Candles was any great shakes; even then the director/producer/writer had a major case of the cutes - I mean, his actress of choice was Molly Ringwald (red hair, freckles, teeth borrowed from a beaver).

But in Sixteen Candles and movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink Hughes was smart enough to make Ringwald's adolescent viewpoint dominant. That's what made his work different. Most teenage flicks followed the male rite-of-passage; Hughes saw the world of the American teenager through female eyes. The Breakfast Club (kids learn to 'relate') and Pretty in Pink (blue-collar girl wins rich boy) spoke of alienation, angst and romance, because he realised that teenagers wanted someone to love much more than they wanted someone to screw. He deserved his success, especially with Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful, movies where boys was shown to share the same needs and fears as Hughes's modern girls - without being anywhere near as mature.

The problems began with She's Having a Baby: the boy (Kevin Bacon as a father-to-be) becomes central. . .and the film becomes less interesting. It's not as if Hughes was even 'growing up'. He's regressing. Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Dutch and Dennis focus on darling little boys and the family as sitcom caricature. Caricature is now a helpless reflex: Baby's Day Out (above) features a year-old boy infant on the loose in New York. Hughes is trying to get back to the womb - he ought to be getting back to the drawing-board.

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