Brats (2024) Movie Review – The actors who want to forget about the ‘Brat Pack’

The actors who want to forget about the ‘Brat Pack’

Nicknames can hurt.

During my teenage years, I was given a nickname that stuck right the way into my early adulthood. It annoyed and upset me because it was both patronising and belittling. It took away my identity – the person I wanted to be perceived as. 

It’s this experience that makes me relate to actor-director Andrew McCarthy whose documentary Brats shines a spotlight on his feelings about the term “Brat Pack,” a label he became associated with in the 1980s which he feels undermined his career and misrepresented the type of actor he wanted to be. 

McCarthy isn’t the only actor made famous in the 80s who felt/feels stung by the term. Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, and Ally Sheedy are just some of those other former teen actors who talk to McCarthy about the effect the term ‘Brat Pack’ had on their careers. 

It was David Blum, a writer for the New York Times who coined the phrase in 1985 for an article he was writing about this group of actors. It was a play on the term ‘Rat Pack’ used in the 1950s and 1960s to group together Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others.

Interviewed by McCarthy in the documentary, we hear how Blum was pleased with the phrase he concocted. He thought it was clever, which it was, in a way. But it had a deeply personal impact on those young people who forever became associated with the ‘Brat Pack,’ including those already mentioned, as well as Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, and Rob Lowe.

These actors were worried the term ‘Brat Pack’ would harm their careers and there’s a chance that it might have. This isn’t to say they rarely stopped working but it’s hinted in the documentary that certain doors might have been closed to them because of the way the media and the public perceived them.

McCarthy, who also wrote the book Brat: An ’80s Story, which this documentary is partly inspired by, interviews as many of the ‘Brat’ actors as he can, but he isn’t able to get in touch with every member of the pack. We learn that Molly Ringwald didn’t take part because she wants to look forward and not back on her career – a hint that she may be as bitter as McCarthy, Estevez etc about the denigrating ‘Brat Pack’ label. 

Judd Nelson isn’t available either, for unexplained reasons. Anthony Michael Hall is absent too. These actors are sorely missed as their contributions would have been useful. But we do get to hear from ‘Brat Pack-adjacent’  actors (those 80s teen stars who weren’t officially a part of the group), including Timothy Hutton, Lea Thompson, and Jon Cryer. There seems to be relief on Cryer’s part that he wasn’t a ‘Brat,’ both in his interview with McCarthy and in an interview we see him give back in the 1980s. 

It’s incredibly moving to see McCarthy reunite with his fellow actors as, in some cases, it’s the first time he has spoken to them in over 30 years. His reunion with Emilio Estevez is especially touching as it appears there was tension between the two of them back in the 80s that formed a bridge between them. Thankfully, they’re able to let go of whatever grudges they had during their affectionate interview.

But speaking of tension, there is a lot of it during the interview between McCarthy and David Blum, who McCarthy blames for hurting his career. They speak with friendliness but it’s clear McCarthy has an axe to grind and perhaps rightfully so. Even when the interview is over and the two men hug, McCarthy continues to grill Blum while the cameras are still rolling. 

Those of us who grew up in the 80s probably didn’t realize the pain and disappointment McCarthy and his fellow actors went through following the release of Blum’s mean-spirited cover article. I certainly didn’t – I thought ‘Brat Pack’ was an affectionate phrase – and I eagerly rented VHS copies of any film these young actors were a part of – The Outsiders and The Breakfast Club being two of my favourites. 

I identified with the teenage characters portrayed in these films. I was Ponyboy, the sensitive poet of The Outsiders who wanted to be free of the negative perception given to him. I was Brian from The Breakfast Club, the nerdy kid with braces that never seemed to catch a break. In some ways I was also Allison from that aforementioned film, being a moody outsider who wanted to fit in but was never quite able to. These characters touched me on a personal level, while elsewhere, in Hollywoodland, the actors from these movies were worried about being typecast.

‘Brats’ is available to watch on Hulu and Disney+ right now. It’s an enjoyable, fascinating, and sometimes emotional watch, that will best be appreciated by any fan of the ‘Brat Pack’ movies (though I hate to use that phrase now) who grew up in that period when McCarthy, Estevez, Moore et al were at the pinnacle of their careers.

These actors are still working today but one has to wonder – would they be more famous now if they hadn’t been grouped together with the derogatory ‘Brat Pack’ term that they considered harmful? It’s a question some of these actors are possibly still asking themselves. 

 

Read More: Every Official Brat Pack Movie in Release Date Order


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  • Verdict - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
7.5/10