Director: John Hughes
Screenplay: John Hughes
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, Michael Schoeffling
Year: 1984
Duration: 92 min
Country: USA
BBFC Certification: 12

Although not the best teenage comedy of the era, John Hughes debut writing-directorial movie Sixteen Candles, 1984, is probably one of the most realistic of its type. With just enough emphasis on boobs and insinuated oral sex, Sixteen Candles is more than an average teen comedy. In part, steering away from the exploitative nature of films such as National Lampoons Animal House, 1979, it has a good mix of teenage anguish mixed with some more outlandish teen comedy moments.

I have some fond memories of this movie. Bought for me on VHS possibly on or around my 16th birthday, I already had some emotional connection before recently reviewing this film. My initial memory is that it was not quite on par with other John Hughes films of the 80s such as Breakfast Club, 1985 and Pretty in Pink, 1986. And it wasn’t. However, it was still a fun watch and most importantly, we would never of had the former two without this film.

Imagine its your 16th birthday. You wake up. What excitement awaits you? This is a big day – your doorway to adulthood. But then… nothing! No presents. No cake. Not even those special words, “Happy Birthday!” How would you feel? For Samantha (Molly Ringwald) this is exactly how her birthday starts. Too obsessed with everything being perfect for her sister’s Wedding the following day, all (there are a lot of them) of Samantha’s family forget her birthday.

Accepting that this is already a bad day, Samantha sets off for school where her day is filled with further upset as she loses a private ‘sex quiz’ detailing the boy she would most like to have sex with and is then hounded on several occasions by the school ‘geek’ Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) known as Geek, to the point that he probably should have had a restraining order against him.

Whilst Samantha tries to get noticed by the one boy in school she truly desires, senior Jake (Michael Schoeffling), she stumbles across an unlikely friendship in Geek. After a heart to heart in the school’s auto shop and the surprising exchange of Sam’s knickers, the unlikely two go their separate way, Sam home to bed (alone) and Geek to the locker rooms to sell viewings of Sam’s knickers to other sex deprived teenage students.

Meanwhile after leaving the dance and dropping off Sam, Chinese foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe) who is staying with one set of Sam’s grandparents, continues to pursue the party lifestyle ending up at the obligatory after school party, hosted at love interests Jake’s house by his popular girlfriend.

In true teenage comedy style the party gets out of hand as more drunken students populate the house. Tired of the hedonistic attitude of his girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) and intrigued by Sam’s crush on him, Jake ditches his hot girlfriend Caroline in favour of ‘girl next door’ Samantha. In the end all is well. Samantha’s family finally remember her birthday, she gets the ‘hunk’ and the ‘Geek’ gains some sort of prestige amongst his classmates, not to mention a good long snog with Jake’s beautiful castoff, Caroline. Every teenage boy and girls dream come true.

Being his debut writing and directing role, it is not surprising to see the influence of Hughes work with National Lampoon evident in this film, with some of the more outlandish scenes mimicking that of the National Lampoon style. In particular, the character of Chinese foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong encapsulates the most over the top and exploitive moments found in the Lampoon anthologies.

Despite this, Hughes is able to create a film that truly reflects the realities of teenage life. The character of Samantha is very relatable to the teenage female audience, something that other teenage comedies often fail to achieve. She is just an average girl, with an average life, and the casting of Molly Ringwald with her ‘girl next door’ appearance was perfect. Geek also seems to personify the pent-up sexual tension of the average teenage boy, with no real experience, but so convincing in his confidence that he leaves even his friends unsure as to what to believe. Again, good casting, adds to this role with Anthony Michael Hall’s innocent boyish looks and charm adding realism to the role which at some points is over the top.

Both of this film’s main stars, Ringwald and Hall put in believable and convincing performances. As a result, it is not surprising that director and writer Hughes went on to cast both of them in future memorable movies alongside some other names that became known in the 1980s as the ‘Brat Pack’. In particular, the scene in the auto shop played out naturally with a clear bond formed between the two actors. Other supporting roles were equally good, Paul Dooley as Samantha’s dad pulls off a sweet father and daughter talk and Gedde Watanabe adds some clownish antics synonymous with movies of this genre, making this film overall an enjoyable watch.

This new release version also includes many extras that are worth a watch, including some newly filmed interviews with cast and crew, and an archive documentary. Also, the video essay ‘A Very Eighties Fairytale by Soraya Roberts is an interesting look at the film from a contemporary feminist perspective.

I liked this movie. As I said before, its not the best. It definitely has its flaws, but it is a feelgood, innocent film which captures a point in time that all teenagers (and those who have been teenagers) can relate to. It is typically 80s in style and the hairstyles are a little nightmarish but overall a fun movie with a happy ending.

Sixteen Candles is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy and includes the following extras:
• New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-rayTM presentation of the Theatrical Version of the film (92 mins), plus Blu-rayTM world premiere Extended Version (94 mins), featuring the additional cafeteria scene newly remastered in high definition
• Original lossless mono audio, plus 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround option
• Original English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Alternate home video soundtrack prepared for VHS and laserdisc releases
• Option to watch additional scene from the Extended Version separately
• Casting Sixteen Candles , an all-new audio interview with casting director Jackie Burch
• When Gedde Met Deborah, a newly filmed conversation between actors Gedde Watanabe and Deborah Pollack
• Rudy the Bohunk, a newly filmed interview with supporting actor John Kapelos
• The In-Between, a newly filmed interview with camera operator Gary Kibbe
• The New Wave Nerd, a newly filmed interview with filmmaker Adam Rifkin, who shadowed John Hughes while working as an extra on set
• Music for Geeks, a newly filmed interview with composer Ira Newborn
• A Very Eighties Fairytale, an all-new video essay written and narrated by writer Soraya Roberts, looking at the film from a contemporary feminist perspective
• Celebrating Sixteen Candles, an archive documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew and admirers, including stars Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Haviland Morris and Gedde Watanabe
• Theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots
• Image galleries
• BD-ROM: PDF of the original shooting script
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck

Sixteen Candles
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Zoe Gammon is a mother of two with a love of films, the gorier and more violent the better. To chill out she likes nothing more than a glass of red wine and a large LEGO set to build.

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