Molly's Folly as a Sweet Sixteen
2009 was a sad year with the sudden loss of the inspired talent which was John Hughes, a man whose movies had become part of so many people's lives that many of us owe him a debt of gratitude for getting us through our tumultuous teens with the likes of "Weird Science", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" starring Molly Ringwald, his first movie as director. "Sixteen Candles" is typical John Hughes with teen troubles mixed with humour and a little romance to deliver an amusing movie although one which understandably feels like he was still honing his skills. It's by no means a bad movie and Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall make "Sixteen Candles" work.
Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald - Not Another Teen Movie) wakes up on her sixteenth birthday expecting it to be a special day, except with her sister's wedding the next day everyone in her family has forgotten, even her grandparents who having turned up for the wedding are more interested in the fact that Samantha has now got boobs. If that wasn't bad enough Samantha has the hots for Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) the schools heart throb except he's going out with the schools miss perfect and the only attention Samantha can get is from The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall - National Lampoon's Vacation).
"Sixteen Candles" is quite a nice movie with a storyline which is quite charming although not quite as good as I thought it would be after many reviewers raved about it. It sort of floats between being amusing and romantic whilst also tackling teenage turmoil's, all with a slight exaggeration making them easy to relate to but funnier than if they were played completely straight. It's not a bad movie; just one when compared to other John Hughes movies feels a little lost, lacking the energy of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", the humour of "Weird Science" or the whole teen turmoil thing of "The Breakfast Club". But then "Sixteen Candles" was John Hughes's first movie and you can see the glimpses of things which would come in his later movies.
What is nice is that like all John Hughes movies he treats teens as real people, highlighting the issues which teenagers face but cranking up the situation slightly so it doesn't become over the top but still funnier than real life would be. It makes "Sixteen Candles" an amusing movie that you can connect with, the ultra cool heart throb, the slightly bitchy girl, the loneliness of being left on the outside, even the troubles of being a geek it's all real stuff just slightly funnier. It's what made John Hughes such a great writer and director; he somehow managed to show teenage life for what it was without being condescending.
The biggest problem I have with "Sixteen Candles" is the storyline about Samantha's birthday being forgotten as whilst Molly Ringwald does her best to make it feel like a real situation its just not believable. If that had been the whole premise of the movie then maybe it would have worked better, a bit like "Home Alone", but because "Sixteen Candles" tackles other things in a more accomplished manner it feels like a poor premise to allow for the teenage turmoil's to take centre stage. Although it does allow for some father daughter bonding and Paul Dooley does a nice enough job of playing the father.
Molly Ringwald is perfect as Samantha Baker, delivering dead pan funny so that whilst the character seems serious it's quite amusing as well. Alongside Ringwald you have Anthony Michael Hall who is known solely as "The Geek" delivering well an amusing geek something which he refined more in the likes of "The Breakfast Club" and "Weird Science". The rest of the cast are for the most background padding except for Michael Schoeffling as Jake Ryan the object of Samantha's desires and does an adequate job of delivering the handsome hunk with a heart and coming over all Matt Dillon like. For those sharp eyed amongst you may recognize a young John Cusack as The Geek's friend Bryce.
Of course "Sixteen Candles" is over a quarter of a century old and understandably being released in 1984 it's full of those 80's fashion faux pas and music. It would be impossible to say that it doesn't look dated because quite frankly it does and in being so is not only amusing but quite nostalgic. The important thing is that whilst it may be visually dated the storyline is still as current now as it was then.
What this all boils down to is that "Sixteen Candles" is stereotypical John Hughes, taking in the turmoil's of teenage life and making them amusing. It's not as good as I expected but it's still a very enjoyable movie with nice performances from Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. Well worth a watch for all fans of 80's teen movies.