Back in the ‘80s, the late filmmaker John Hughes made his name with a string of popular teen comedies. He wrote and directed The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He also penned the screenplays for and produced Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. While Breakfast Club is often cited as his best, I’ve always found it to be a bit heavy-handed in its message. A group of obvious stereotypes finding common ground despite their differences is a fine message, but apparently not one that many teenagers have learned given the recent focus on anti-bullying. I have always been partial to Sixteen Candles, a slice of life about a teen having a very bad day. Sixteen Candles is funny and charming, and though it doesn't carry the “important message” of The Breakfast Club, there are still a few lessons to be learned.
Molly Ringwald plays Samantha Baker. Samantha is all set to celebrate her 16th birthday, only to discover that her entire family has forgotten it. Their attention is focused on her older sister Ginny (Blanche Baker), who is getting married the next day. Samantha heads off for an ordinary school day where she and her best friend Randy (Liane Curtis) talk about boys and their lacking social lives. Samantha has a crush on Jake (Michael Schoeffling), a popular senior who is dating the equally popular and very pretty Caroline (Haviland Morris). Samantha doesn't think Jake knows she exists, but in reality he intercepted a note telling of her infatuation with him. Her interest in him sparks his interest in her.
The plot is super simple. A girl likes a boy that is out of her league, but destiny awaits. It's certainly been done tons of times. Where Sixteen Candles wins is in the details. Hughes throws in a lot of laughs that keep the movie moving at a brisk pace, for the first half at least. All of Samantha's grandparents have come out for the wedding. They fawn all over her, make embarrassing jokes, even exclaiming that she has “gotten her boobies.” One pair of grandparents has brought along Long Duk Dong (Gedde Wantanabe), an Asian exchange student who loves mowing the lawn and doing their laundry. Despite the obvious political incorrectness, especially given the implication that Long Duk Dong is more of an indentured servant than a guest, the character has several funny moments as he tries to interact in his new surroundings. Having little interest in the preparations for her sister’s wedding, Samantha heads off to the school dance with Long Duk Dong in tow.