Picture the scene- it’s the morning of your 16th birthday. You’ve promised yourself that you’ll have “four inches of bod and a great birthday” ahead of you. But unfortunately, fate seems to be set against you, as nobody (except for your annoying kid brother) remembers the occasion, as they’re fixated on your older sister’s upcoming wedding. As if that wasn’t irritating enough, you’re in love with the hottest guy in the senior class at school, who doesn’t know that you exist, and already has a perky, if shallow, cheerleader girlfriend. Also, a dorky freshman is obsessed with you trying to “win” you,all for the sake of a bet with his friends, to the point that you’ll give him your underwear because you feel sorry for the guy. And that’s only the beginning of your troubles…
That’s the case with Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), the heroine of John Hughes’ 1984 teen classic, “Sixteen Candles”. As if that aforementioned scenario of her entire family forgetting her special day wasn’t enough, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), the boy in question, reads a note Samantha had written to her friend, where she declares her love for him. He sets out trying to track down Samantha, all while trying to rid himself of Caroline (Haviland Morris), his popular girlfriend. Meanwhile, geeky “Farmer Ted” (Anthony Michael Hall), is desperate to increase his popularity (or lack therefore). Samantha’s troubles are exemplified by foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe).Wild teen parties, a wedding day gone awry due to muscle relaxers and an underwear showing ensue. Can Samantha still have the birthday, and the guy, of her dreams?
As I’ve mentioned before, I simply adore John Hughes movies. He definitely possessed an astute insight to how the teenage brain works, as well as the awkward shenanigans that seem to be a package deal when it comes to being an adolescent. Many contemporary teenagers can relate with this, showing them that even in the 80’s, kids suffered through similar pitfalls as they do currently. This leads to many laugh out loud moments, many due to the actions of the amicable Ted, who, to me, is the epitome of all the wannabe cool kids stereotypes that I am familiar with. The film also features early appearances of siblings John and Joan Cusack, as Ted’s just as geeky friend Bryce, and a girl with embarrassingly uncool orthodontic braces, respectively.
While the film has held up well where school life and teenagers are concerned, one thing that might not seem as funny to viewers in 2015 as it might have to those in 1984 is how the film represents Long Duk Dong. How he is portrayed has sparked off many a controversy in recent years, with many sources stating that this treatment of his character is offensive and unnecessary. However, this doesn’t hamper the enjoyment of the film itself, in my opinion.
In conclusion, “Sixteen Candles” is not my favourite Hughes film of all time (that honour would have to go to either “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” or “The Breakfast Club”), but it is the movie by him which I can relate to the most, mostly because I identified so strongly with Samantha and Ted, as I’m sure many others did likewise while watching it. It is for that reason, that I’m awarding “Sixteen Candles” a strong score of four and a half stars out of five.