Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Sixteen Candles – It Looks Different From the Parents Perspective

Written by John Hughes
Directed by John Hughes

When I watched Sixteen Candles again for the first time in a number of years, I didn’t remember having this sort of reaction to it when I first saw it in theaters. Am I dating myself? I would question if it’s just me that changed except that movies like The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High still hold up quite well to me.

The Bakers are a nice family living in a nice, upper-middle-class suburb. They have a very large house. The kids’ bedrooms strive to look “ordinary” for the 1980s, right down to the poster of The Stray Cats right above their daughter’s bed, but it’s carefully sculpted to look like something it isn’t – none of my friends ever had rooms that looked like these. All of the houses look quite upscale, especially when they attend a party where the parents have gone away, presumably to some expensive Caribbean destination, foolishly leaving behind their “responsible” teenager to watch over things. The clothes are the same way as they seem like they are trying to be “cool” but are only decoration. I remember these days, and it was always easy to pick out those who were “faking it” for an image.

Molly Ringwald is Samantha Baker. It’s her 16th birthday, but all of that is forgotten in the chaos surrounding her sister’s wedding. Her day goes from bad to worse when she gets to school. A “sex test” ends up in the hands of her secret crush, Jake Ryan (portrayed by Michael Schoeffling). She and her best friend are then forced to ride the bus home with a bunch of geeks. Oh, the humiliation!

Maybe it’s just me getting older, but I have a hard time finding sympathy for Samantha. She looks down on those she feels are “beneath her”, such as “the geeks” and her family. Her family only seems to be useful for what they can give her as she walks around looking for them to wish her Happy Birthday and pining for a black Trans-Am with a bow on it. Otherwise, she is looking down her nose at her grandparents for their support stockings.

It’s easy to see where it comes from. Her self-absorbed sister Ginny (portrayed by Blanche Baker) doesn’t want to have a heart-to-heart with her sister when Samantha comes to her to talk about being in love. Ginny just wants to talk about her wedding and thinks her sister is being selfish. Yup, takes one to know one. Great job raising those girls, Mom and Pop Baker!

So now that her family has let her down on her 16th birthday, Samantha heads off to school to a dance. A geek with a crush on her named Ted (portrayed by the pinnacle of 80’s geekdom Anthony Michael Hall) annoys her to no end. What she doesn’t know is that her crush, Jake, read that “sex test” he intercepted and is asking questions about her.

A little dose of reality here. I mean, I know we’re supposed to be rooting for Samantha to get Jake. After all, he’s the BMOC at school. He’s got the hottest girl as his girlfriend. He drives around in a red Porsche. He’s the guy who’s unattainable to her. But in reality, how long do you think they would last? She’d have to spend a lifetime feeding his ego and propping him up after he blows his career and ends up selling cars at the local Chevy dealer and getting a huge beer gut. The only sport in his life would be crushing beer cans and tossing them.

Some of the best moments are the quiet ones. When Samantha’s Dad comes down at night after he realizes the family forgot her birthday, it’s a sweet moment that feels genuine. He doesn’t pretend to have really gotten through to her with his advice, but he asks her to. From a parent’s perspective, we put things like this out there hoping you’ll remember them when events come to pass.

There’s also a great moment when Jake has a heart-to-heart with Ted and the two have a real conversation. Jake could never talk to the so-called friends he has in his circle the way he talks to Ted.

There are some really funny moments, especially when Ginny overdoses on muscle relaxants prior to her wedding to compensate for getting her period the day of her wedding. This was one ceremony they’d be glad not to have a videotape to remember it by. When Jake’s girlfriend Caroline (portrayed by Haviland Morris) gets wrecked at the party, there are a few good jokes at her expense. However, there’s a point that it crosses a line and infers that while she was unconscious, Ted took advantage of the situation. Although I don’t know many people from the 1980s who wouldn’t root for the most arrogant, stuck-up girl in high school to get what’s coming to her, this part is disturbing to look back on.

The soundtrack is great. There’s a good selection of 80’s songs including Spandau Ballet’s True, The Vapors’ Turning Japanese, Wham’s Young Guns, and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

Some of the actors in the film weren’t that well known when they appeared in Sixteen Candles. Look for siblings John and Joan Cusack to portray minor roles.

Sixteen Candles was written and directed by John Hughes. I do like the film and still enjoy watching it, but there is just something missing when compared to some of the other films he did during this decade about high school life, such as The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, not to mention a few scenes that are questionable with the perspective of 30 years later.

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