Blu-ray Review: Sixteen Candles | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, September 24th, 2020  

Sixteen Candles

Studio: Arrow Video

Aug 03, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


“I can’t believe this. They fucking forgot my birthday.”

Of John Hughes’ so-called Molly Ringwald trilogy, it’s no secret that the first entry, Sixteen Candles (1984), has aged the most poorly. Not even touching on all of the issues that absolutely deserve to be addressed about John Hughes’ films nearly 40 years after their heyday, Sixteen Candles is the one that ends with a potential date rape scenario for its secondary hero, and features Gedde Watanabe as walking stereotype Long Duk Dong, whose cringe-inducing gags are loudly punctuated by a fucking gong sound effect.

It’s a shame this sort of awfulness is there to mar what could have been among Hughes’ better ‘80s high school fairytales, because fifteen-year-old Ringwald is so good as Sam Baker, a girl whose family drop the ball on her sixteenth birthday when it falls on the day before her bubbleheaded big sister’s wedding. Her house has been converged upon by two sets of grandparents and a foreign exchange student; it also happens to be the same night as a big dance. Can she survive the day while warding of the unwanted advances of a Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) and somehow win the heart of the high school’s most popular senior?

Hughes found his proverbial muse in Ringwald, a gifted actress who was actually younger than the character she portrayed on screen. The same goes for Anthony Michael Hall, whose charisma is the only thing keeping his character from seeming as creepy as he actually is. Both would be put to better use later on, of course, but they’re a big reason why Sixteen Candles still holds an appeal to this day. The soundtrack, full of New Wave classics – and restored to this edition after licensing issues removed them from VHS copies and cable airings – is another big selling point. It’s also a teen movie told from a primarily female perspective, which had been done before – see: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Valley Girl (1983), both directed by women – but still wasn’t common in the era, and doesn’t forgive the way the second-most significant female character’s sole purpose was to be ogled in the nude, passed around, and violated “ten different ways.”

We could spend hours dunking on Sixteen Candles’ thorny bits. It’s an occasionally reprehensible product of a bygone era; a time we’ve tried to move past, as a society, and we’re all the better for it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth preserving, however. That’s where Arrow Video, as usual, have stepped in with a new Blu-ray edition that provides some helpful, contextual framing for the movie’s sticking points.

A Very Eighties Fairytale is a great new, visual essay by critic Soraya Roberts, which provides a modern, feminist assessment of the movie — its good, bad, and ugly aspects all at once. Nikki Baughan also appraises these elements in a booklet essay, laying out where positives poke through all of the negative. On the disc itself you’ll find many cast and crew interviews, minus the principals but featuring new on-screen chats with actors like John Kapelos, Gedde Watanabe and Deborah Pollack, casting director Jackie Burch, composer Ira Newborn, and more. Both the film itself and the extended version – with an extra scene – are newly restored in 4K, making it so you can better appreciate all of the New Wave posters on Samantha’s walls.

Between Criterion’s release of The Breakfast Club, Paramount Presents’ brand new edition of Pretty in Pink, and Arrow’s own Weird Science from about a year ago, it’s good to finally see the Hughes canon arrive in the extras-laden special editions that had remained curiously absent throughout the DVD era. (Now, how about Some Kind of Wonderful, somebody?) Arrow’s Sixteen Candles release is an especially nice one, and worth grabbing for anyone ready to revisit the movie, warts and all.

(mvdshop.com/products/sixteen-candles-blu-ray)




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