John Hughes’s first feature Sixteen Candles is out now on glorious Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
As a director John Hughes didn’t leave a vast body work. It would only be a guessing game as to what else he would have created if not for his untimely death in 2010 or if he had not walked away from Hollywood in the early ’90s. What Hughes did leave behind were some off the best comedies and dramas of the ’80s. Now Arrow Video has released a 4K restoration of his first film, Sixteen Candles.
Hughes had a brilliance when it came to making movies about teenagers with teenage actors. Today, Hollywood will cast a young looking actor who, more times than not, hasn’t been a teenager in years. Then they will drop these actors into movies as fully formed adults in control of their own narrative.
It doesn’t matter if you were born in 1974 or 2004 teenagers have never been in control of their own lives let alone their own destinies. Adults, whether it’s parents or educators, control the lives ad patterns of kids. Hughes understood this. The teenagers in his movies aren’t adults, but they’re not children either. Hughes’s teenagers were just that- teenagers. More often than not they’re in flux between being teenagers and what they will become as adults.
Sixteen Candles finds Sam, played by Molly Ringwald, on what should be one of the most important days of her life. She’s turning sixteen, hence the title of the movie, on a crazy day in the Baker family. Along with her birthday comes a host of issues every teenager has had to face and every soon to be teenager will face.
Sam has body issues, a problem her and her friend share. Mentally, she says, she’s sixteen, but physically she still looks fifteen. Her body image issues don’t get better after she spies on Caroline, the epitome of teenage beauty, taking a shower in the gym locker room. She’s perfect while Sam imagines she will never be perfect.
No teenage years would be complete without the first love. Jake is Sam’s first love. Jake also happens to be Mr. Popular in the high school and dating Caroline. According to Sam’s friend, he doesn’t even know she exists until he does realize she exists. The missed connection relationship is what the movie is built around leading up to the romantic conclusion.
Jake and Sam may have never connected if it weren’t for Ted (Michael Anthony Hall), King of the Geeks. Ted is a “dip shit.” He comes on to Sam in a very strong manner that almost approaches stalker level. The bullshit that comes out of his mouth is the same bullshit every unpopular teenager tells himself and their friends.
“Dip shit” may be too harsh of word. He’s young, stupid, and thinks he knows a lot more than he actually does. It’s typical teenage behavior, especially teenage boys who only have one thing on their hormonal minds. However, Ted quickly redeems himself by connecting Jake and Sam.
THIS MOVIE COULDN’T BE MADE TODAY
It’s popular to say this or that movie “couldn’t be made today.” In our enlightened times we know blackface is racist and humor bashing the disenfranchised isn’t funny. Sixteen Candles, as it stands, couldn’t be made today.
Long Duk Dong, even the name is an attempt at humor on a foreign name, is a foreign exchange student thrust into Sam and her family’s lives when her grandparents come into town for her sister’s wedding. From the time he’s introduced to the end of the movie he is the brunt of many jokes.
The grandparents treat him like a slave. All of the grandparents call him “Chinaman.” We could chalk this language up to the grandparent’s age. “They didn’t know any better back then,” is the go to excuse for a lot of behavior.
Sixteen Candles is a gem, but when we look closer the imperfections we never noticed before become startlingly clear. We got it the first time. Long Duk Dong is not from the United States. We didn’t need to be reminded by the stereotypical Chinese gongs and strings whenever the character has screen time.
Early DVD releases of Sixteen Candles didn’t have any extras. Re-issues of the movie on to Blu-ray were often scarce on extras as well. Arrow Video’s release has a few worthwhile and new extras.
Most of the new extras are interviews with cast members. It’s interesting to learn details and stories from behind the scenes. The one stand out new feature is an interview with director Adam Rifkin. Rifkin, who directed a coming of age of his own with Detroit Rock City, tells a brief story of his time on set and how he shadowed Hughes for the rest of the movie.