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Samantha's life is going downhill fast. The fifteen-year-old has a crush on the most popular boy in school, and the geekiest boy in school has a crush on her. Her sister's getting married, and with all the excitement the rest of her family forgets her birthday! Add all this to a pair of horrendously embarrassing grandparents, a foreign exchange student named Long Duc Dong, and we have the makings of a hilarious journey into young womanhood. Written by
Rick Munoz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It may look like cheesy teen romance, but it was the birth of teen comedy as we know it
As weird as it may sound, "Sixteen Candles" is an important film. It's true: a film about a high school girl who has a nightmarish sixteenth birthday played a significant role in shaping movie comedies as we know them today.
To start with, "Sixteen Candles" was written and directed by John Hughes. Hughes had written a couple films prior to this one for the group National Lampoon's, namely the classic comedy "National Lampoon's: Vacation." "Candles" marks the directorial debut of Hughes, his first complete film. Why is this of any significance? Well, Hughes followed up this film a year later with a little movie called "The Breakfast Club." As if that wasn't impressive enough, in the 1980s, Hughes produced more hit sequels to the "Vacation" series, a movie called "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and created some of the finest films of the careers of Chevy Chase and John Candy. He's the father of 80s comedy and the grandfather of comedy as we know it today.
So how does this all ring true in "Sixteen Candles"? To start, the film takes place in the span of 48 hours. That seems insignificant, but how many classic teenage comedies take place in a short time span? The model even holds true with today's films like the praised Apatow Productions film "Superbad." That's just one small example. The real contribution of this movie is its depiction of the teenage lifestyle. Samantha is a typical teenager with typical teenage thoughts and problems on her 16th birthday. Molly Ringwald is a name no one forgets despite her only major films being this and "Breakfast Club" because we see a little of our teenage selves in her candid performance. With Hughes help to create such a real concept (getting neglected by her family on her birthday), Ringwald communicates all those dizzying 16-year-old emotions and issues like self-confidence, being misunderstood and of course hopeless romance.
The comedic genius plays its way in to all the things that happen to Sam and the completely relatable and/or goofy characters that surround her. The film is one of the first to take what "Animal House" did for college movies and apply it to the high school scene, being unafraid to handle the sex and drinking and generally irresponsible behavior. While this idea has since exploded into untold number of movies both good and awful, what makes it stay fresh today is that it doesn't over-stereotype. There are nerds and popular girls and what have you, but Hughes doesn't play up that hierarchy. Sam's love interest, the seemingly unattainable Jake Ryan doesn't have jerk-off friends pressuring him not to fall for the unknown quiet girl. them coming together is the film's goal, not it's plot. While the believability there isn't the film's strong suit, it's not as weak and cheesed up as similar films that followed it.
The best part of "Sixteen Candles" is how unmistakably real it is. The family drama and goofiness that plays out (the story takes place the day before and of Sam's sister's wedding and the family's in town) is so dead on. We all have grandparents like Sam's that treat us like they treat Sam. We all have embarrassing but necessary conversations with our parents, even if we don't like seeing them on the screen either. Hughes taps into our inner or (depending) outer teenager with sacrificing the humor of the whole situation. If nothing else, "Sixteen Candles" could provide anyone with a camera and some confidence to create a movie. This is proof that movies about life in the suburbs can in fact be done well.
Complimented with a killer soundtrack, freshmen who look like 12-year-olds paying money to see women's underwear, some great cars and plenty of empty cans of "Old Style," "Sixteen Candles" is classic in every sense of the word. There's no denying that it's cheesy and most of the acting is poor outside of Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall (also of "Breakfast Club") as the socially courageous geek who is a sweetheart of a troublemaker. (Oh, and appearances by the young Cusacks.) At the same time, it's the nostalgic, lost but hopeful teenage feeling the movie evokes that makes it timeless. It can't be underestimated how much of an impact this film really did have on the future of comedies.
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