DVD blog review: ‘Woodshop’ carves its heart from ‘The Breakfast Club’

The late John Hughes’ seminal ’80s teen flick, The Breakfast Club, lives on in Woodshop, a little film made in Boulder, Colo. with no stars (well, former wrestler turned Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura) and no theatrical release. But  straight to video doesn’t mean it can’t go straight to your heart, despite detours onto Dazed and Confused’s turf of merciless violent bullying — a poor choice for a comedy, given the tragic extremes of highly publicized cases today.

Yet Woodshop still buzzes with fine performances and sharp, edgy dialogue (which would be R-rated except this edition — as a come-on — is going out “unrated”). It also benefits from some clever flashbacks to the teens’ earlier childhood, whose innocent precociousness in chess tournaments and the like evokes Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.

About all Woodshop lacks compared to such touchstones is a strong song score. But song rights are expensive, so we take what we can get in this 90-minute feature, now available On Demand and reaching video Sept. 7.

Don’t count too much on Ventura, who performs with one-note bluster as the gruff woodshop teacher overseeing Saturday detention. He also never lives up to the intimidation factor presumed by a dangerous  kid–who looks about 30–with evil intent. If that means car-bomb murder (are you kidding me?) and preposterous plotting — well, it’s only a movie, right?

The other high schoolers in Saturday detention are a largely likable bunch, from the hacker genius stoner to the sole female, who adores power tools and takes no guff. None are stars or likely to become one, but all get the job done, including Scott Cooper Ryan as the school’s academic all-star who’s just a regular guy. (Look for The X-Files’ Mitch Pileggi and Twin Peaks’ Don S. Davis in cameos.)

If writer-director Peter Coggan hadn’t resorted so much to violence or violent threats — and hadn’t taken them so lightly in the comedic, feel-good context — he’d have had a better movie.  But Woodshop still cajoles and diverts more than many far costlier films, and as The Breakfast Club revisited for the 2000s, it’s worth lacquering if not loving.

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