Everything worth knowing about teenagers in the 1980s is found in John Hughes’ 1984 directorial debut, Sixteen Candles. This is a perfect movie, capturing it all in just two days in the life of 16-year-old Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald). Sam’s 16th birthday is the day before her older sister’s wedding, and it starts out anything but sweet. Her entire family is so consumed with the wedding details, they forget. Sam heads to the back-to-school dance saddled with her grandparents’ Asian exchange student Long Duk Dong, in love with impossibly sweet campus hunk Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), and chased by relentless freshman geek, Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall). Hilarity, revelations, and romance ensue.
These characters remain cultural icons to anyone who was a teenager in the ’80s due to great performances and Hughes’ peculiar mix of small-town values, strikingly non-PC humor, and sweet but sophisticated smarts. For such an outrageously funny movie, Sixteen Candles takes its teenagers and their issues seriously, and the adults aren’t just clueless creeps. As many perfect scenes as there are in the movie, maybe the best and most exemplary is the quiet late-night chat between Sam and her dad (the great Paul Dooley). Another crucial note regarding the music: Before there was First Wave on satellite radio, there was John Hughes. The new wave in his movies wasn’t stuff that was easy to find on the radio, then or now, but it was poignant, evocative stuff. Who can hear the Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here” without seeing Sam and Jake and her 16 candles?
The image quality here is a major surprise. It’s not only never looked better, it’s probably never looked this good. While not a great artistic statement, the image is colorful and clean, with terrific texture and small-object detail. The edges might be a little hard, but in short, it looks great. The soundtrack is no surround demo, but Hughes’ aforementioned spectacular taste in new wave music is the star. Dialogue is clear, and the music shines; ’nuff said. The only extra of note is a 40-minute documentary that’s terrific, with the only losses being the non-participation of Ringwald and Schoeffling. Sixteen Candles is an unqualified classic that stands taller and taller with age, especially with the crassness that punctuates today’s teen rom-coms. Sixteen Candles is dated in ways that only increase our appreciation. They don’t make them like this anymore. In fact, no one but Hughes ever did. A must-have, better than ever on Blu-ray.
Studio: Universal, 1984
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 93 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: John Hughes
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley