It has been said many times that John Hughes was successful as a writer and director because he treated his young subjects like people, struggling with the hurdles of life and displaying genuine emotion. This is particularly true of Sixteen Candles, in which Molly Ringwald plays Samantha Baker, a high school sophomore who awakens one morning only to discover that her parents "fucking forgot" her sixteenth birthday. Hughes clearly understood the high school mind, as reiterated by later projects The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the late director deftly handles Sam's emotions during her very eventful birthday. Ringwald is perfect, and Sixteen Candles, with its colorful cast and occasionally irreverent humor, is an '80s comedy classic that retains its charm.
Sam wakes up not in a broken home but one consumed by the impending wedding of older sister Ginny (Blanche Baker). She gives her dad (Paul Dooley) and mom (Carlin Glynn) the chance to rectify their oversight, but goes to school unrewarded. Sam spends her time in class filling out a sex quiz and dreaming of senior Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), and returns home to find both sets of grandparents, along with foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), are bunking with her for the wedding. Suddenly, the school dance seems like a good escape, but Sam is immediately assaulted by the innocent advances of the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a nerdy freshman whose real name is Ted.
In recognizing the importance of social interaction in the lives of adolescents, Hughes finds the perfect balance between the serious and trivial. Hughes never promises that young love will last beyond high school graduation or that these mishaps will even matter in twenty years, but nevertheless allows his characters to live fully amid events that matter in the moment. Sam deals with her birthday omission as one might expect a real sixteen year old to do: She is hurt and angry, but finds the humor in such a ridiculous situation. Hughes saw a headshot of Ringwald and wrote Sixteen Candles specifically for the young actress, who was a muse of sorts for the director. Ringwald stays out of the spotlight these days, but she was, for a time, the queen of '80s comedy.
Sixteen Candles can be described as sweet, at least in the way its characters mature, particularly the Geek, an infallible Romeo. It's also biting in a way few comedies are today for fear someone might be offended. I doubt a new film would dare tackle binge drinking like Sixteen Candles. Jake leaves his barely conscious girlfriend, Caroline Mulford (Haviland Morris), to avoid date rape on her own, and later dumps her with the Geek, who promises to drive her home even though he doesn't have a license. Does the pair have sex? The world may never know, and boozy Caroline doesn't remember. Had the script been shopped today, I suspect some cuts would have been made.
I like that Sixteen Candles values Sam's struggle to gain Jake's attention but never loses touch with reality. By all accounts, Sam is a normal, likeable high school girl. As for Jake? Well, he did leave Caroline with the Geek. Sixteen Candles is very funny, from its hectic morning opening in the Baker house to Long's inappropriate, gong-assisted romps with an athletic student to the Geek's simple request to borrow Sam's underwear. Things work out pretty well for Sam, which is for the best. Sixteen Candles worked out well for Hughes, too, and it remains a satisfying slice of '80s comedy.
The 1.85:1/1080p/VC-1-encoded transfer for Sixteen Candles improves upon early standard-definition offerings but has a few problems of its own. There has definitely been some filtering applied here, as the image feels scrubbed of grain, and I noticed some edge halos. Even so, detail is acceptable, and texture certainly benefits from the high-definition boost. Colors are well saturated, though skin tones do look a bit pink at times. Black crush is apparent in a few scenes, and I noticed a bit of aliasing. None of these issues is fatal, and Sixteen Candles looks better than it ever has on home media. Nevertheless, a more extensive restoration might have yielded a better result.
This is a comedy, so it's no surprise the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is largely front-loaded. Dialogue is clear and free of pops and hiss, and there are moments of directional dialogue. Ambient effects and score stay mostly in the front channels, but each is well mixed with the dialogue. This track certainly provides an adequate listening experience. French and Spanish 2.0 DTS tracks are also included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Sixteen Candles is another entry in Universal's 100th Anniversary collection, and the two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and a code to download a digital copy on iTunes or stream via Amazon Instant Video or Vudu. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case, which is wrapped in a glossy slipcover with a flap that opens to reveal information about the movie and studio in 1984.
Universal ports over some previously available content, which is decent, and adds a few new pieces. Celebrating Sixteen Candles (38:07/SD) is a multi-part retrospective that includes interviews with several cast members and filmmakers inspired by Hughes, including Diablo Cody and Amy Heckerling. Noticeably absent are Hughes and Ringwald, who apparently wanted no part in this 2008 piece. The cast describes working with Hughes as best they can, and each shares memories of the set and production. Cody and Heckerling discuss Hughes and their own films. Universal also includes the promotional 100 Years of Universal: The '80s (15:03/HD) and 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters (8:18/HD), which focus on the studio's biggest hits during the 1980s and some of its most memorable characters, respectively. Neither is particularly compelling.
One of John Hughes' best movies and a classic 1980s comedy, Sixteen Candles retains every bit of its charm and humor. Molly Ringwald is a perfect Sam Baker, a high school sophomore whose family forgets her sixteenth birthday. Hughes understood the young mind, and never trivializes the relationships and emotions on display in his film. Sixteen Candles, available on Blu-ray with a decent transfer and soundtrack, is hilarious and touching. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.