Sixteen Candles (1984) – Film Review
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, Anthony Michael Hall
by Sarah Morgan
Think John Hughes and probably the phrase teen flick springs to mind. It’s certainly the genre where he made his name, although he also enjoyed success with the likes of Home Alone and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
His debut as writer-director was Sixteen Candles, which was released in 1984 and was the first in a string of movies focusing on American adolescents; Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful followed in an incredibly productive three-year spell.
I’d seen all of the above apart from Sixteen Candles, which is receiving a remastered bluray release. Would I love it as much as I did Hughes’ other films? Sadly, the answer is no – time has not been as kind to it as it has to the rest, particularly The Breakfast Club.
It did, however, launch the career of Molly Ringwald, who became a 1980s teen icon. She plays Sam, whose entire family have forgotten her 16th birthday – they’re completely focused on her elder sister’s impending wedding instead.
But, worse than that, Sam has fallen for school hunk Jake Ryan and thinks he doesn’t even know she exists because he’s currently dating Caroline, the prettiest girl in school. However, Jake is a sensitive lad who knows things have gone stale with the shallow Caroline; he’s looking for something deeper and Sam could be the perfect girl for him.
A variety of mishaps occur, and you can probably guess how things turn out. There are certainly no surprises here, but there are some incredibly racist and sexist moments that would never make it into a movie today.
For instance, Gedde Watanabe’s Japanese exchanged student, Long Duk Dong, is a walking cliché, almost as ludicrous a presence as Mickey Rooney’s as Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
And then there’s the supposedly supersensitive Jake suggesting to geeky Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) that if he takes Caroline home from a party he can do whatever he likes to her because she’ll be too drunk to notice. Even before the MeToo movement that should surely have raised eyebrows?!
A heap of special features are included that help shed light on Hughes, his working processes and casting decisions. They are, in some ways, more interesting than the film itself, particularly an interview with Watanabe and co-star Deborah Pollack, who discuss the accusation of racism surrounding his character.
‘Sixteen Candles’ is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99