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Film Review: Sixteen Candles
In 1984, John Hughes released Sixteen Candles. Starring Molly Ringwald, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Michael Schoeffling, Gedde Watanabe, Haviland Morris, Carlin Glynn, Blanche Baker and Anthony Michael Hall, the film grossed $23.7 million at the Box Office.
Sam Baker is facing her sixteenth birthday with numerous emotional challenges. For one, her family is focused on the wedding of Ginny, her older sister, and forgets the birthday. She’s also in love with a senior named Jake Ryan, who doesn’t even know she exists while being pursued by a geeky freshman named Ted.
While Sixteen Candles is seen as one of the best films of 1984, it doesn’t seem to have aged well. The film has, at best, two very average plots running simultaneously. Sam’s coming of age story is pretty decent, revolving around Sam’s forgotten birthday. Yet, that’s more symbolic of her troubles rather than a cause of them. It’s actually the least of her troubles, but it brings about the frame of the story. Being forced to take foreign exchange student to the senior dance, which winds up being another woe for her as he winds up with an actual date before long, becomes the catalyst for getting involved with Ted and Jake. Later in the film, when she reconciles with her parents, she and Jake finally get together, leading to the first date she’d been dreaming about.
As a whole, the reason the above plot is just average is that not only is it entirely predictable, but despite it being a somewhat enjoyable ride regardless of the predictability, it's a poorly paced ride. This whole 90 minute plot feels like it could have lost about 15 or so minutes without losing anything of value.
The other coming of age story centers on Ted. However, not only is it average, it’s totally unnecessary with an ending that doesn't age well at best. His only motivation through the entire film is to have sex and most of the time, he's going after Sam even though it's obvious Ted is going to leave Sam alone so she and Jake can get together. Nevertheless, Jake rewarding Ted by hooking him up with Caroline is sort of unforeseen, but that just leads to the unfortunate implications.
When Jake “gives” Caroline to Ted, she’s drunk and definitely not of sound mind and what goes on from there is essentially date rape. When driving her home, Caroline starts to go down on Ted and he starts to consider that the night is getting good. The next day, the two of them are practically sure they had sex, cut can't really remember. The film unfortunately plays this off as everything turning out all right because Caroline enjoying it.
Still, that's not the only unfortunate aspect of the film. There's also Long Duk Dong who is practically a walking, breathing Asian stereotype. Everything he does is blatantly offensive, from speaking stilted English with no verbs to turning into a sort of drunken master at some form of martial arts. It's odd to watch especially with the Bakers treating the matter as some sort of humorous cultural idiosyncrasy. A character such a this may have been seen as high comedy back in the 1980s. But nowadays, it's a tired, unfunny cliché.
On the other hand, there are some truly funny moments in the film. There’s Joan Cusack wearing a neck brace and attempting to drink from a water fountain and can of beer. Sam's grandparents and their obliviousness to most things is also good, like them answering the phone in Sam's room and missing the point that a guy is trying to reach her. Another great moment is Jake finding Ted encased in the glass coffee table after the party. It's memorably humorous, but the funniest part of the film is after Ginny takes muscle relaxers to ease the pain from her period so she can stand through her wedding in comfort. Seeing her completely high and not quite aware that she’s at her own wedding is hilarious.
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Young Artist Awards
- Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (Molly Ringwald)
- Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (Anthony Michael Hall)
Casting Society of America Artios Awards
- Best Casting for Feature Film