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Sixteen Candles (1984)

by on 2013/04/22

sixteen_candles_1984“I’ll bet you a dozen floppy disks you don’t get tit.”

* * *

John Hughes had a unique genius for capturing pain and humiliation. Teenage humiliation. Family pain. Business trip pain and humiliation. He usually nailed it.

The great, great, great Carol Burnett said, “comedy is tragedy plus time.”

There are several tragedies in Sixteen Candles starring Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club).  And lots of pain.

My favourite teenager Miss_Tree and I watched it the other day at her insistence. I begrudgingly agreed. (Apparently, I had forgotten about the full-frontal nudity and adult themes).

Miss_Tree’s eyes widened in growing alarm as 16-year-old Samantha Baker’s life goes from bad to worse. Miss_Tree concluded that Sixteen Candles was her “nightmare on a stick.” Samantha’s family ignores her birthday, her older sister is marrying a “bohunk” and the guy Samantha likes doesn’t know she exists (she thinks).

Teen pain, and don’t forget the moral outrage (mine). I thought it was a bit of a nightmare as well.

First of all, don’t get me started on Long Duk Dong played by the terrific Gedde Watanabe (Mulan). Talk about disrespecting Asians everywhere. Cartoonishly horny, horribly named, complete with a terrible Asian-sounding music sting every time he makes an appearance. Wow. Breathtaking.

Moving on… Then there was the casual discussion of date rape when the object of Samantha’s affection Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) say he could “violate” his drunk and unconscious girlfriend played by Liane Curtis after a disastrous house party. Shudder.

But he does the gentlemanly thing (cough) and hands her limp body off to The Geek played Anthony Michael Hall (Weird Science). Jake’s tired of her after all because all she wants to do is party. Boooo!

You have to wade through a lot of reprehensible dreck to find the good moments in this black spot on the immortal John Hughes’ otherwise solid record.

The funny wisdom of his other comedies is definitely at play in the moments between Hall’s The Geek and Ringwald. The entire value of the film can be found in their scene at the dance and their resultant conversation in the industrial arts room.  I won’t go so far as to say that you could just find those clips on YouTube, and then happily go on with your life, but it is a very close call.

It was nice to see John and Joan Cusack in early roles. I do love the smart, quirky Mr. Cusack (The Grifters) so, and equally his sister (Addams Family Values).

Unfortunately, I have to steal Miss_Tree’s pithy review by concluding as she did that “Sixteen Candles is a nightmare on a stick.” Now perhaps I could say that it doesn’t hold up …but that thought makes me incredibly sad.

Did jokes about assaulting an unconscious teenager every play? I suppose they did …and even more sadly, do.

It is a rare comedy indeed that reminds me that life does indeed, at times, truly suck.

* * *

93 minutes

Rated R for many, many really good reasons including substance abuse, nudity, date rape, vandalism, bigotry, frequent use of the term bohunk, and poor choice in men (puff, puff)

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