Brats Documentary Review: Mama MOE Movie Review

If you are a child of the eighties, you will remember the term “Brat Pack” referring to the 20-something-year-old stars of the top movies of the decade. That term was coined when I was just eight years old, and when I was older, I associated it with the stars I loved watching in film. Never did I know then how that very term affected the stars it was referring to.

In 2021, Andrew McCarthy, one of the labelled “Brat Pack” stars wrote a book about his experience. Now, the documentary inspired by the book has taken shape and will be available on Hulu and Disney+ on June 28th. I had the opportunity to watch it ahead of time. Here is my review.

An 80s Kid and Her Idols

I can tell you honestly, I watched movies like The Breakfast Club and thought, wow, these guys know exactly what’s up. Some American films that came out didn’t ring true to me, but I remember idolizing the actors in most of these movies as though they understood my life. The teen situations, the anxiety and trauma of high school, it was all on the big screen for me to commiserate with.  It was an understanding of my generation on screen, and it was amazing.

However, I didn’t know at the time; how difficult these actors were having it. It is actually very hard for anyone to understand today, almost impossible, really. My closest understanding to younger actors and how they maneuvered the business would have to be the actors in the sitcom, Friends, and by then I was a young adult. I listened to entertainment news and understood more about how things work in showbiz. Prior to that, the characters on screen were just amazing people I idolized and saw in my teen magazines.

If you look at the business of sitcoms, movies and actors today, if is impossible to understand that it was not always like it is now.  Rallying together, asking for equal pay, and having interviews and articles cheering you on… that is not what these actors experienced.

The Label That Changed Everything

As McCarthy says in his documentary, actors such as him were becoming famous at a time when Hollywood realized they could capitalize on teens coming to the theaters. Suddenly, young adults were featured as important characters in movies. It was so new, and since then it has been the norm – movies every season, especially in the summer are geared to teens. Still, at that time, young adults did not have the independent, confident voice that they do now.

On June 10th, 1985, a journalist for New York magazine came out with a seething article about these actors trying to make a name for themselves and insinuating they did not deserve the fame they were getting because they weren’t hard workers, and they didn’t have a lot of experience. The title of the article called these actors the Brat Pack and for everyone associated with this new label, it was a horrible thing.  Suddenly, the actors didn’t want to work together, and they basically dispersed. As a collective, the actors in question didn’t want to be associated with each other, or with the label, for fear of being seen as a difficult actor, as the article described them to be.

What Is The Movie, Brats About?

Here is the synopsis:

The feature documentary “Brats” looks at the iconic films of the 1980s that shaped a generation and the narrative that took hold when their young stars were branded the “Brat Pack.” Director Andrew McCarthy reunites with his fellow Brat Packers — friends, colleagues and former foes, including Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Jon Cryer, Lea Thompson, and Timothy Hutton, many of whom he had not seen for over 30 years — to answer the question: What did it mean to be part of the Brat Pack?

The documentary is a walk down memory lane for 80s kids like myself. Filled with interviews, clips from films, some of which I still have not seen, with the main discussion around the label, the Brat Pack. I found this documentary fascinating.  It’s a deeper look into how these actors felt in that moment and moving forward. Some actors did not participate in the film, such as Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson. While others were vocal in the experience that unified them in time.

Is this Documentary Good for Kids?

I would have to say that kids will not find this interesting at all. It is a slow paced, discussion-filled documentary about a time they aren’t interested in. For some teens, however, this will be super fun. If you have a teen that is a movie buff, or an entertainment history buff, or just loves all the songs from the eighties still popular today thanks to TikTok, they will enjoy this.

It goes without saying that every 80s kid will get a real kick out of this documentary. It’s a real step-back-in-time film with clips from morning shows like Donahue, snippets of interviews from Entertainment Tonight, and of course, clips from some of the most iconic movies of our time.

So, Who Was In The Brat Pack?

That may be the funniest part about this documentary as a viewer listening to these actors. There is not a clear list of actors that even they consider to be part of the Brat Pack label that was given to them.

As a young adult watching these movies in the 80s, I associated the Brat Pack to mean the actors in my favourite films. So for that, I would include every actor in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. After that, I guess they were associated with the Brat Pack but not as a core group. As someone watching it years later in the early 90s, I thought this label was a “cool club” group of actors that all got along. But as you will see when watching the documentary, it was something very different.

Take Aways From The Documentary

I think the most interesting part about watching a documentary about this time in history, was that it is so different for actors today.

This was a time without social media, and the only entertainment news we were fed was from morning talk shows, a couple of weekly entertainment shows and magazines. So when this article came out, it was truly a big deal. The magnitude of this label would probably mean nothing today, as information is passed and replaced so quickly. And I would venture to bet that if young actors would be labeled as such today, their confidence and even arrogance would exceed whatever a journalist wrote about them in a magazine article. As actor Lea Thompson said in the documentary, things meant more then, because movies and records were physical (tangible) and people took them and brought them home. It is so different today, and there isn’t as much invested in entertainment.

When these movies came out, we went to see them in the theater, then we rented them from Blockbuster and watched them multiple times. We recited the lines, we made mix tapes with the songs from the soundtracks, we fell in love with each character.

I really enjoyed hearing from these actors and their collective experience, and I think you will to.

Disclosure: I was offered early access to this film to facilitate a review. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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