Sixteen Candles


Year 1984

Molly Ringwald as  Samantha Baker
Anthony Michael Hall   as The Geek,
a.k.a. "Farmer" Ted  
Paul Dooley as Jim Baker
Carlin Glynn as   Brenda Baker
Michael Schoeffling as   Jake Ryan
Blanche Baker as   Ginny Baker
Gedde Watanabe as   Long Duk Dong
John Cusack as   Bryce
Debbie Pollack as   Lumberjack
Beth Ringwald as   Patty
Pamela Elser as   Shower Double
 
Director - John Hughes
Screenwriter - John Hughes

Ah, the teen years. There's a good chance that these were some of the worst years of your life. The possibility of having to relive those years is one of the main reasons that I refuse to entertain the notion of reincarnation. The tail end of those years isn't bad, but the first six or seven are filled with anxiety and self-doubt. They're nothing to want to relive, but they are amusing to observe from an outside perspective. John Hughes specialized in this.

For some reason, John Hughes never grew up. He remained firmly rooted in high school. Even as an adult, he never lost touch with the little things that made high school the scene of everyone's best and worst memories. Sixteen Candles is superficially about a girl being depressed because her parents forgot to wish her a Happy Birthday when she turned sixteen. In reality, it's a snapshot of the high school experience condensed into two days.

John Hughes, who later wrote and directed the overblown The Breakfast Club, nailed the teen rites of passage here in Sixteen Candles. It's a funny movie, too, unlike The Breakfast Club.

Sixteen Candles is not a guy film. It's about a girl, shows things from a female perspective, and deals with woman issues. I know that John Hughes was married and had children, but I have a hard time believing that he wasn't gay. Regardless, even if you are a guy, you'll think that this movie is funny. I wouldn't have watched it except for the fact that my wife likes the movie. Would I have missed out if I'd never seen the movie? A little. It's entertaining and it will make you laugh. But it's not about guys or even for guys.

The movie is character driven, so rather than go into the plot in detail, I'll describe the characters. Samantha (Ringwald) wakes up on her sixteenth birthday expecting the world to be different. Not only is it the same, but because the family is focused on the wedding of Samantha's older sister, they completely spaced even wishing Samantha a Happy Birthday. Samantha's whining about this is what nearly every scene revolves around.

At school, sophomore Samantha has a crush on senior Jake (Schoeffling). Jake's rich, athletic, and good looking. He's one of the in-crowd and his girlfriend is the homecoming queen. He's not particularly fond of his girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) because she's self-centered. Instead, he's interest in Samantha but is shy and afraid that Samantha thinks he's jerk.

Uh, what? Okay, I can buy that Caroline is a fruitcake in the making and to be avoided. I can't buy that Samantha is choice number two for this guy. John Hughes is attempting to show that even the most popular boy in school has a hard time establishing sound relationships. But Molly Ringwald? A funny looking sophomore like Ringwald instead of another cheerleader? Or maybe a junior? Maybe even a college girl?

I never understood why Molly Ringwald was ever considered the object of desire. She's not that pretty. She looks like she's in pain when she smiles. She has no curves. Her voice can break glass. There's no outfit that she's ever worn that she looks like it fits her. But yet, she was one of the hottest stars in the 80s.

So a good part of the movie is getting Samantha and Jake hooked up. They are both at a dance, but when Jake gets up enough nerve to talk to Samantha, Samantha runs away. Jake tries to call Samantha but gets her grandparents, who are staying at the house, instead.

Also trying to help out the Samantha-Jake connection if The Geek, a.k.a. Farmer Ted (Hall). He's a freshman who's trying to be a man of the world but, due to his diminutive size and grating manner, often ends up being a doormat.

Ted, the self-proclaimed leader of the freshman geeks, is out to show that he's a lady killer. He stalks Samantha until she talks to him. Then, he asks her for her panties to win a bet. Later, he crashes Jake's party. He's put inside of a clear cube table as a reward for his efforts. He does end up getting a girl, Caroline, when she's drunk and easy and she seems to have no regrets.

This last is odd. Having sex with a drunk girl is skirting the line between what could happen and what should happen. In the movie, we don't witness the act, but we see the events leading up to it and the morning after. It does sound concensual, but it's still a tricky area.

At the same time as Samantha's birthday is her sister Ginny's wedding. Blanche Baker, the actress, does a good job of playing Ginny Baker, the ready to be wed prom queen. Her husband to be is the crude Rudy Riesczeck (John Kapelos). A gag in the movie is misprouncing the family as the Rice Chex instead the Rizchecks. To this day, I can't get a bowl of any kind of Chex cereal without thinking Riesczecks.

There are the grandparents who stay at Samantha's for the wedding. One pair is coddled and the other is earthy. All four people are amusing. The earthy pair bring an exchange student with them named Long Duk Dong (Watanabe). The name itself is good for some obvious jokes. The character is not mean but is irresponsible and has no qualms about self-indulgence or property damage.

Then there is Samantha's father who realizes his omission regarding his daughter's birthday. Paul Dooley is one of those unsung great character actors. He's always entertaining whether it be in this movie, O.C. and Stiggs, or Slap Shot.

In the beginning, it's the little things that keep you laughing. School lockers that won't open, geeks whose topics of conversations you've heard before but refused to admit really happened, a weight room where guys pick on the weak, and the infamous written sex test for examples. There's usually something going on in the background of each scene as well. Such as the weight room. The two main characters are talking and in the background a big guy is doing a military press with a wimpy guy. There's another scene where a scared freshman is dragged to the school dance by his parents and dropped off. He gets away. Later, there's a scene where his parents are dragging him back again.

The dialog is also amusing. When Samantha's brother Mike (Justin Henry) is told that the family forgot Samantha's birthday, like a good younger brother, he gives a grin and tells his mother and Samantha, "Classic!"

The background gags don't away during the last part of the movie, but they're not quite as subtle so they lose a bit of wit.

Some nudity by a body double, profanity, a little blasphemy. If you have to watch a chick flick, pick this on. It's not sappy and it is funny. It's an ensemble cast, so there's more than one funny character. There are some surprise future stars like John Cusack's small part as one of Farmer Ted's posse. There above average chick flick potential here, but don't let that scare you away. I'll never watch this movie by myself, but if my wife picks it out as the one to watch that night, I have no problems with it.


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