Back-To-School Month: "Sixteen Candles" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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Back-To-School Month: "Sixteen Candles" Review

Rating: PG (adult language, sexual situations)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 1984
Directed by: John Hughes
Genre: Comedy/Romance

The 1980s wouldn't have been the same without "Sixteen Candles," an endearing film that has become a coming-of-age classic. Directed by John Hughes, the film takes audiences through a day in the life of a teenage girl on her sixteenth birthday, a day when everything that can possibly go horribly wrong actually does happen. "Sixteen Candles" is a fresh and cheerful take on the tragedy and comedy inherent in teenage life, complete with the obligatory party, dance, and boyfriend scenes.

The story revolves around Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), a high school sophomore who's trying to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. Her oldest sister, Ginny (Blanche Baker), is getting married the following day, causing her parents to forget about her birthday. To make matters worse, the boy she's completely infatuated with, Jake (Michael Schoeffling), somehow sees a quiz she took that contains very intimate and confidential information, including the fact she's saving herself for him.

When Samantha, known simply as Sam, gets home from school, she discovers all of her grandparents are staying at her house for a few days to attend the wedding. One set of grandparents has a foreign exchange student with them, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), and they ask Sam to take him to the dance at her school that night. She does, and he finds a girlfriend in very short order, a tall jock named Marlene (Debbie Pollack).

It turns out Jake is also interested in Sam, but the two can't seem to get together. He manages to find her telephone number and calls it, but is disappointed when her grandparents answer the phone. After a number of hilarious events at the senior dance after-party, Jake breaks up with his current girlfriend and then drives to the church just in time to meet up with Sam after the wedding ceremony. As the movie ends, the couple shares a kiss over her birthday cake, and she finally gets to celebrate the big day with exactly the present she wanted—Jake.

Director John Hughes, who also wrote the screenplay, had no directing experience when he took on "Sixteen Candles," but he managed to make the movie a huge success anyway. Prior to writing this screenplay, he'd made a name for himself with "Mr. Mom," another 1980s classic comedy. In "Sixteen Candles," Hughes shows he completely understands teenage angst, and he manages to show it in a compassionate yet hilarious way. After the success of "Sixteen Candles," Hughes went on to write and produce many other hit comedy films, including "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Uncle Buck," and "Curly Sue."

"Sixteen Candles" grossed more than $20 million at the box office, more than triple its production budget. Both Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall won Young Artist awards in 1985, which was the first time the award had ever been given to juvenile actors. Within a few years, "Sixteen Candles" ranked in "Entertainment Weekly's" list of fifty best high school movies ever made.

Molly Ringwald, who was one of America's sweethearts during the 1980s, was the perfect choice to play Sam. Although her entire performance was flawless, her reaction in an early scene when she inadvertently catches her grandparents in their undies is one of Hollywood's classic scenes. Ringwald portrays an innocent teenager who desperately wants to be in love, and she takes everything just a little too seriously. The scenes and storyline show all of the day-to-day foibles that teens experience, but Ringwald manages to turn tragedy into comedy, making this one of the best comedies of the year.

Ringwald was just sixteen years old herself when the movie premiered, making it that much more realistic. Prior to "Sixteen Candles," Ringwald made a name for herself in several television sitcoms, including "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Facts of Life." After the film aired, she went on to star in many more comedies, including "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," and "The Pick-Up Artist."

Michael Schoeffling was a relative unknown when he was cast in "Sixteen Candles." After a stellar performance, he continued to act in movies such as "Sylvester," "Vision Quest," and "Let's Get Harry."

"Sixteen Candles" is a sweet, touching, and hilarious film that captures the teen years all too well. Director John Hughes managed to perfectly capture adolescent behavior in America's middle class like very few people can, and he did it in an endearing and sweet way that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Put this movie on your must-see list of classic high school movies.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5