On the eve of her sister’s wedding, newly-sixteen Samantha (Molly Ringwald) is having a crisis; it seems in all of the excitement her family has forgotten her birthday… and to make matters worse her secret crush Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) has absolutely no idea she is even alive… or so she thinks as unbeknownst to her, he has found out about her feelings via that hoary ol’ chestnut; “the intercepted passed note”.
Things ain’t so hot after school either, as she has to deal with her grandparents taking over her room… along with the foreign exchange student they have taken in (more on him in a bit)… and whom they force Sam to take to the school dance.
At said dance, Sam is pursued by The Geek; Ted (an uproarious Anthony Michael Hall) who has made a bet that he can obtain her panties while Jake attempts to find out more about her… and on and on the unrequited pseudo-romance goes over one long night comprised of partying, soul-searching, and side-splittin’ larffs… but will Sam end up with Jake or will the downward spiral continue for our plucky friend?
What can I say about Sixteen Candles that you lot don’t already know… this flick is one of the all-time legendary teen comedies of the 1980’s; the cast is perfection with Ringwald being everyone’s wise-beyond-her-years, girl-next-door crush and Hall playing his role to squeaky-voiced nerd perfection… and that’s what makes this film so damn special; it’s a perfectly acted story about adolescent underdogs having their day… and let’s be honest, most of us were more Farmer Ted than Jake.
The film is amazing as well as we can see the signature John Hughes (who wrote and directed this picture) cinematic style develop right before our eyes (and it’s an aesthetic that would only continue to grow stronger and more brilliant with pictures such as The Breakfast Club and Weird Science)… and it’s an absolutely hilarious film from beginning to end.
Additionally Sixteen Candles‘ soundtrack is a perfect time-capsule of 1983 and features such acts as The Vapors, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, David Bowie, the Stray Cats, and like a bazillion more… seriously, Hughes’ movies captured the pop-culture musical zeitgeist like few other films of the period ever did.
On the downside, some of the humor in this hasn’t aged well in the thirty-six years since it’s release… to wit; the exchange student Long Duk Dong (mentioned earlier) and the constant gong-noises that play at the mere mention of his oh-so-subtle name would never fly today (though to be fair Gedde Watanabe absolutely exploits the role for every drop of ludicrous comedy he can wring from it like the genius actor he is), as well as the pretty shoddy treatment Jake’s alcoholic soon-to-be ex-girlfriend gets… though the end result is sweetly positive?!! Yeah, kinda mixed-signals with that hot mess… oh, and for you parents out there this is an ’80s PG, so expect nudity and F-bombs!
As a note to horror hounds, this film also features a cameo from Poltergeist‘s Zelda Rubinstein as the church organist… not a substantial role, but it’s fun to see her here.
As for special features on this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment we get both the theatrical version and extended cut of the film (which features one additional scene of Jake reading Sam’s note, and some lunch-line chit-chat… a scene that can be viewed separately in the special features menu), as well as the VHS version of the film which contained nearly a dozen differences in the film’s soundtrack.
Following that comes interviews with casting director Jackie Burch, Watanabe and actress Deborah Pollack (who still have great chemistry decades later), actor John Kapelos, filmmaker Adam Rifkin (who worked as a featured extra in the film), camera operator Gary Kibbe, composer Ira Newborn, a new video essay written and narrated by writer Soraya Roberts, looking at the film from a contemporary feminist perspective, an archival documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew and admirers, including stars Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Haviland Morris and Gedde Watanabe, a collection of trailers, TV and radio spots, and image galleries (featuring the film’s shooting script, production stills, and poster & video art respectively).
All of this comes in a package containing a reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Sara Deck, and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by film journalist Nikki Baughan and music and pop culture journalist Bryan Reesman.
Sixteen Candles is not only one of the greatest comedies of the 1980’s, it’s a perfect coming-of-age story that despite some artifacts of the time it was produced in, still stands the test of time!