Sixteen Candles

Directed By: John Hughes

Starring: Molly Ringwald, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, and Anthony Michael Hall

There's nothing quite like an 80’s teen flick, especially one directed by the late great John Hughes.  His coming-of-age comedies are timeless depictions of what it means to be a teenager — the personal stresses, the social anxieties, and the constant feeling of being misunderstood.  They also capture the good stuff — the crazy nights at some friend's house, those fun moments making new friends, and those milestone birthdays that always offer some unexpected curve balls.  Well, Hughes's teen classic Sixteen Candles tackles all of this and more.

Sophomore Sam Baker (Molly Ringwald) is celebrating her sixteenth birthday today.  There's just one problem.  No one is celebrating with her.  Because her sister Ginny (Blanche Baker) is getting married tomorrow, her parents Jim and Brenda (Paul Dooley and Carlin Glynn) have completely forgotten her birthday.  Her grandparents (Edward Andrews, Billie Bird, Carole Cook, & Max Showalter) have also forgotten her big day.  Instead, one set of grandparents seems to be endlessly embarrassing Sam, while the other forces her to spend time with a foreign exchange student they're housing by the name of Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). 

The fact that her family doesn't remember her special day isn't Sam's biggest problem.  After taking a "sex test" in which she mentions her virginity and lists the person with whom she'd like to have sex as senior Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), she drops it on the floor for her friend Robin (Jami Gertz) in a classroom.  Robin doesn't pick it up, and some mystery person now has Sam's sex test and a bunch of private information about her.  Meanwhile, a freshman geek by the name of Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) begins to pursue her and make a name for himself with the guys.

While Sixteen Candles is not John Hughes's best teen flick, it is definitely a strong contender.  Tackling the myth of the sweet sixteenth birthday, Hughes once again shows off his intimate understanding of adolescence and forges a sharp coming of age tale with loads of laughs and a lot of heart.  In replicating the social awkwardness of high school and the many stresses that come with family, Hughes really captures the essence of adolescence in a nightmarishly funny way.  At the center of it all, he pulls strong performances out of his cast.  Sixteen Candles is just one fun coming-of-age movie.

John Hughes really knows how to craft a comedy.  While he certainly shows the wild side of being a teen with crazy parties and embarrassing stunts, Hughes delivers most of his laughs by playing on the nature of interactions between Sam and the boys in her life as well as Sam's discomfort with her family.  He creates one giant social nightmare for his main character and builds humor around this situation.  Ignorant parents, overzealous grandparents, and one desperate geeky freshman definitely reflect this.  Even music tracks in the film such as “Dragnet” and “Peter Gunn” underscore how he leverages Sam's situation for laughs.  To a teen, the most mundane things are apocalyptic.  To us, they're just funny.

While building this rich comedic arc, Hughes is able to craft a film with a lot of heart.  He's able to pull some touching emotional moments out of his cast, particularly from Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.  As Baker, Molly Ringwald gives a charming yet touching performance that accentuates the emotional underpinnings of a suffering sixteen year-old girl.  She plays the character to perfection.  Ringwald established herself as a teen sensation with Sixteen Candles.  Her role as Samantha Baker is the first of several career-defining collaborations with director John Hughes.  For his part as the geek Ted, Anthony Michael Hall certainly brings the laughs.  When he's not dancing like a fool or crashing the Ryans' Rolls Royce, he's having heartfelt conversations about love, life, and what it means to be at the bottom of the social totem pole as a freshman.  Hall is simply at the top of his game in Sixteen Candles.

Given that it was made in the 80’s, Sixteen Candles hasn't fully stood the test of time.  The 80’s is known for cheesy movies, and this one fits the bill.  That being said, it's a classic teen movie and a fun romp.  Hughes and his cast hit all the right notes in putting together one terrible sweet sixteenth.  Sixteen Candles gets a 0.03% rating.  Some wine coolers will do nicely with 80’s cheese.