Sixteen Candles movie review

Story by Taylor Kuether, Managing Editor

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Like any red-blooded American, I love John Hughes movies. Each one has become an iconic, generation-defining piece of American cinema. Even “Baby’s Day Out”*.  So with that being said, I give the following review with utmost respect for Mr. Hughes and
his work.

My issues are with content, not execution. While “Sixteen Candles” lacks the quintessential 80s montage we’re given in his other films, we still have bumpin’ beats and gratuitous shots of Converse and mom jeans (see: opening credits).

Moving on to the characters. Samantha Baker, played by Molly Ringwald, is a stereotypical self-absorbed American teenager who’s madly in love with the meathead jock (played by Michael Schoeffling), who, as she says at least a dozen times throughout the film, “doesn’t even know (she) exists.”

Anyway, this meathead jock is named Jake Ryan. Really? Doesn’t everyone know you should never trust a man with two first names?

Apparently no one told Sam this. Actually, no one told her anything — her interactions with Jake throughout the ENTIRE MOVIE are just long, wistful stares. Seriously. They don’t talk until the final three minutes of the film, and when they do, the lines are so canned you could donate them to a food pantry.

I also found that I wasn’t really rooting for either of the protagonists. Jake is a crappy boyfriend (he even makes a rape joke about his girlfriend, which is deeply unacceptable, no matter the era), and Sam just isn’t very likeable. I think it’s because Molly Ringwald is kind of surly. Has anyone ever noticed that? She’s Surly McSurlypants!

As far as characters that are likeable, Anthony Michael Hall (who is credited in the film simply as “Geek”) is adorable as usual, though his AV club nerd/ladies’ man character is pretty sleazy and just not very believable. (Sidenote: I think to compensate for all the dork roles he had to play in the 80s, AMH grew up to become a body builder. Not kidding. Google him. It’s weird and unappealing.)

Probably the single most likeable character is Sam’s kid brother, Mike Baker (played by Justin Henry). Every single thing that comes out of his mouth is a punch line, and all the jokes are surprisingly good.

That said, this movie has more than its fair share of racism and sexism. The Chinese exchange student, Long Duk Dong (believe me, the jokes about his name are abundant to the point where the viewer wants to scream, “We get it! It’s slang for male genitalia!”) never appears onscreen without insipid, Eastern-inspired music accompanying his presence — you know, to really get the point across that he’s Chinese.

As for the sexism, it’s primarily your garden variety men-treating-women-like-objects-they-can-pass-around-like-trading-cards, but there was one line that particularly bothered me. While drunk, Jake’s girlfriend says, “I know exactly what birth control does to a girl my age, it makes it OK to be really super careless.”

That kind of quip is only playing into what opponents of birth control already believe: that it’s only good for making young girls too promiscuous. It’s not helping the case for safe, consensual sex, and that’s dangerous.

Still, the film has its gems. One of my favorite aspects is the strong, caring relationship Sam and her father share. It’s rare to see a healthy father-daughter relationship onscreen, and it was refreshing. Her father even says to her, “When you do find the right guy, don’t let him boss you around. Make sure he knows you wear the pants.” That kind of thinking was innovative to say the least back in 1984.

My verdict: If you’re looking for a John Hughes film to watch, look elsewhere. “Sixteen Candles” isn’t as bad as “Pretty in Pink,” but it’s also nowhere near as good as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club,” or even “Weird Science.” But, at least it’s no “Baby’s Day Out.”

*not actually.

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