Twitter Plot Summary: After her family forget her 16th birthday, Sam Baker has to deal with lots of teenage angst-type stuff.
Five Point Summary:
1. They forgot! How rude.
2. Grandparents and a foreign exchange student? Busy house.
3. The Prom. Oh my.
4. After party!
5. Wedding! Everybody’s happy! Roll end credits, quickly!
It’s not easy, turning 16. You’re in high school, everything is… erm… changing… and brooding is pretty much the default mode for yourself and all of your friends. It’s even worse for Samantha Baker (Ringwald), whose entire family forget her 16th birthday because her older sister is getting married the following day. Of all the things to forget! So the story follows Sam for a couple of days as she has to deal with typical teenager concerns – finding out her friend didn’t receive the “sex quiz” that she filled in during class; rebutting the constant advances of the kid known as The Geek; and going to the Prom.
John Hughes is adept at the teen angst movie, and whilst he has made films with a much more adult spin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, for one), he is most known for his films where the kids and/or the teenagers are the stars. And more often than not, let’s face it, that star is Molly Ringwald. In other hands a story like this could end up either in gross-out Porky’s territory, instead we’re funnelled down the coming of age path, where by the closing credits everybody (well, the important faces) learns something and everybody’s happy.
Much like that other Hughes classic, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles features an array of classic stereotypes given just enough characterisation for them to appear fully rounded people even though in hindsight they’re actually not. There’s the jock, the Asian exchange student with the slightly risqué name (used to great comic effect throughout, I might add); the aforementioned Geek; and the “everygirl” right in the middle, Sam. Ringwald was perfectly cast as Sam, balancing teen grumpiness with a certain endearing quality that ensures the character doesn’t become overbearing. Sixteen Candles also happens to feature a young John and Joan Cusack, who to be completely honest don’t look like they’ve aged at all in the intervening 30 years. Freaky genetics going on there. It’s fair to say that much of the high school storyline may be lost on an International audience. American high school movies have a very definite feel to them, and Sixteen Candles is no different. I can’t imagine that every high school in the USA is exactly like this, but there must be at least some basis of truth to the concept. Put it this way, high schools in the UK have a completely different atmosphere. Probably for the best.
By the halfway point much of the events happening to Sam feel a little contrived, but that’s okay – it’s counterbalanced by the realistic tone and dialogue that emanates from each of the young stars. Compared to some young actors today, more often than not you can tell that this lot are living the role, and that really does help you ignore the plot contrivances. The fact too that it has a typical happy ending would also be a point of contention were it not deliberately set out to be a feel-good piece of cinema. We laugh at everyone’s antics, sure, but ultimately we’re happy to see everybody end up where they’re supposed to be. And, I’m sad to say, it’s the type of film we don’t see enough these days.