Rewatch Retro Review: Sixteen Candles (1984)


Gotta love the nerd’s pose.

It was dark when I decided to scroll my Netflix list out of boredom. After all, here I was paying for the subscription and yet barely using it. I figured, how about I checked to see what was new with Netflix. Scrolling through the endless lists of movies, I found a few childhood favorites, such as Mulan and Hercules. I was beginning to think, “why not watch a few random scenes of each movie to save time?” As I was about to do just that, Sixteen Candles caught my eye. I had seen the film before, and yet I figured, “why not start out the clip-re-watch.” I skipped to about 3 minutes into the film before I found a “good part.” Before I knew it, I had ended up re-watching the entire film. I had initially watched Sixteen Candles around two or so years ago. I didn’t think much of the film: good, but a slightly overrated, 80s teen-flick. This time, however, I decided to really focus on breaking down the film’s composition. Originally released on May 4, 1984, Sixteen Candles ultimately became known to many as a “hit classic.”

“That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ’em something else.”

John Hughes’ directorial debut follows teenager Samantha “Sam” Baker (Molly Ringwald) looking forward to her rock-n-roll sixteenth birthday. Too bad for Sam, her sister’s impending wedding causes her entire family to forget what a typical teenage girl looks forward to her entire life…imagine the drama and sass elicited. Furthermore, Sam has a crush on taken senior, Jake Ryan, (Michael Schoeffling) but worries her chastity will turn him off. This is further complicated when he accidentally comes across a questionnaire detailing her interest in him. Coming home from school that day, Sam soon finds that her house is crowded by the arrival of all four of her overprotective, (but loving), grandparents along with a bizarre foreign exchange student they brought along, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanbe). Add to the fact that Sam is persistently pursued by nerdy Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), you can only imagine that Sam’s sixteenth birthday really will be something to remember. Quick note: plot-wise, the story is well-paced, so yay!

“I want a serious girlfriend. Somebody I can love, that’s gonna love me back. Is that psycho?”

Do they get together at the end or is it a promo shoot? …You find out! 😉

 Sixteen Candles is a perfect package of stereotypical 80s culture—especially a teenager’s life in that era. We have the classic 80s beats, the fashion, the slang, the daily activities of school, the lack of technology, (bye bye iPhone), the cliques of jocks, nerds, hotshots, invisible folk, etc., and of course the struggle of wanting to fit in.  It is admittedly dated, but the aspects mentioned do make for an excellent presentation. However, this can also be a negative characteristic depending on the perspective of the viewer. One could say that Hughes’ film goes too far in terms of stereotyping, ultimately resulting in a clichéd teenage romantic comedy. Similarly, the viewer could argue that Sixteen Candles could have been the one film to have been the “original cliché.” It really depends on the viewers’ perspective.

Moving on to the acting featured in the film, I found it to be mediocre. At times, I felt as if I was there watching the cast “act” rather than immerse themselves into characters of another world. Suffice to say, there were also times where some scenes were a bit exaggerated—which made them unrealistic, (even cringe-worthy). In saying this, however, I did notice that the acting seemed to improve as the film went on. Because of this, there are a couple of memorable, iconic moments existing throughout Sixteen Candles. It’s even more surprising as compared to The Breakfast Club, (will definitely be doing a review on this later), Ringwald and Hall’s acting performances GREATLY improved.

“I loathe the bus. There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation.”

It’s fine, the acting improves later.

The film had an interesting use of sound editing included in the film, (random, funny noises.) While this does add to entertainment, this aspect could also be considered to be annoying as it is too exaggerated and overused at times. An example would be a gong sound whenever Long Duk Dong is mentioned, (talk about stereotyping and hyped-up humor).

A few aspects I found note-worthy?  Besides the ones mentioned above, I found a couple things to be pretty awesome in my opinion. Firstly, I enjoyed how the movie wasn’t unnecessary sexual in nature. In contrast to today’s films, not everything revolved around sex; it had a nice touch of innocence to it. Now, don’t get me wrong, this film is about teenagers, so of course they’re interested in it. However, the film was completed with just the right touch of that theme. That’s what makes some of the most memorable, cute scenes in this movies. Secondly: both John and Joan Cusack make cameos in this films. Siblings and baby Cusacks? That’s pretty cool. Thirdly: Hughes was perfect in choosing “If

The nerd and his moves.

You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins as the ending theme. Fourthly: The lack of technology really resonated with me. In contrast to today’s teenagers where you see their eyes glued to glowing screens, in Sixteen Candles, you see teenagers living by interacting and being social with one another. It’s refreshing. Lastly: To me, it was a nice perspective Hughes took to elevating the status of both nerds and virgins. Usually looked down upon, the film took a different approach and portrayed the groups as unique; they’re both something people should be proud of—especially when they choose to stand by their personalities!

“Would you stop feeling sorry for yourself? It’s bad for your complexion.”

All in all, I thought the movie was good, if slightly overrated, (don’t pelt me with ketchup packets.) Yes, it’s funny and cute. However, it can act as such to an extent before it turns exaggerated. Furthermore, there are unrealistic moments that really harmed the film. Add to the fact that there were too many plot-lines going on, and Hughes’ directorial debut could have been improved, (which it did with The Breakfast Club, phew!) It’s a classic with its iconic scenes and quotes, but don’t set your bar too high.

Running Time: 1 hour and 33 minutes

Rating: R (although originally rated PG)

Final Verdict: C+

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