Sixteen Candles Review
Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) has just turned 16, yet her family are too preoccupied with her sister's wedding to remember. All Samantha wants for her birthday is a Prince Charming in the guise of the school hunk, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), to sweep her off her feet and whisk her away in his Trans-Am. Typically, he doesn’t even know she exists, has his own girlfriend issues and Samantha instead has to fend off the unwanted attention by the school geek, Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall).
Sixteen Candles, was John Hughes directorial debut and released in 1984 with The Breakfast Club hot on its heels a year later. As mentioned in one of the excellent extras on this disc, it is very much an 80s screen fairy tale, and a product of its time. Alongside it a handful of other movies that were pushing away from the ‘teen sex’ comedy, the Porky’s’, and Revenge of the Nerds types of films - full of horny male teenagers and underwritten women. What Hughes hoped to bring to the table was a different voice. One that spoke to the kids of 1980s America and infused his political standpoint, and for most of the 80s writer-director Hughes was able to do just that.
Sitting down to watch this new 4K scan of the film I was struck by the realisation that I had never seen it before. Despite owning it - and watching Hughes' other films over the years - in VHS and DVD form I had clearly never put it in and sat down to watch. So, while Weird Science I can watch through nostalgic eyes, I cannot do the same with this one.
It is clear by today’s standards that a lot of Sixteen Candles doesn’t hold up, the formula having been mined more successfully and more recently with the likes of, for example, Edge of Seventeen and Booksmart. However, there is also a lot to like., not least Ringwald. While on one hand her Samantha is a bit of a whinging teen, she has something about her that makes her really watchable. The 'geek', played ably by a very young Anthony Michael Hall, is the film's villainous anti-hero, and Schoeffling's doe-eyed Jake Ryan is the kind of character you're not sure about at first but who wins you over by the end... mostly.
Where this film comes alive for me is with the supporting characters. Early performances by John and Joan Cusack light up the screen whenever they are on it. Jim Baker, Sam's dad is played by Paul Dooley and all but steals the show with a heart to heart talk with his daughter late on. Gedde Watanabe is Long Duk Dong - an Asian exchange student - role essentially played for laughs and one that Hollywood would never get away with today. Yet, to my eyes Japanese-American Watanabe plays the character on the right side of the line and brings more to what could potentially be an offensive stereotype.
If I was to rank my enjoyment of John Hughes' oeuvre, I have to be honest, Sixteen Candles comes in fairly low on the list, but it’s a film which is still entertaining. Arrow has done a sterling job with this restoration, and it even outdoes the other Hughes release Weird Science (also due for release on 22 July) in terms of extra content which only makes this release all the more special.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
This is a new restoration by Arrow Video from a 4K scan of the original negative and is a High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the Theatrical Version of the film (92 mins). Plus, Blu-ray world premiere Extended Version (94 mins), featuring the additional “cafeteria” scene newly remastered in high definition. Once again, Arrow Video comes up trumps with their 4K scan, turning a film that has looked fuzzy over the years into a strong, grain filled, transfer. Original lossless mono audio, plus 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround option. Original English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Alternate “home video” soundtrack prepared for VHS and laserdisc releases - Due to performance rights, the original soundtrack to Sixteen Candles has been changed for years so kudos to Arrow for including an 'alternate' soundtrack that most fans will have grown up watching. There's also an option to watch the additional scene from the Extended Version separately too.
Casting Sixteen Candles - an all-new audio interview with casting director Jackie Burch. Another fine extra, this interview with Burch takes the form of a video essay, rather than a straight to camera interview. She mostly discusses her role and why people were cast. When Gedde Met Deborah - a newly filmed conversation between actors Gedde Watanabe and Deborah Pollack. This is a delightful extra, but more for the evident friendship the two have maintained over the years than for any real insight into the film. Much of the time is spent with neither of them remembering anything (bless).
Rudy the Bohunk - a newly filmed interview with supporting actor John Kapelos. Much like Kapelos' interview on the Weird Science disc, this talks through his background, and why Hughes cast him in the role of Rudy. The In-Between - a newly filmed interview with camera operator Gary Kibbe. Kibbe is probably better known these days (to genre fans) as John Carpenter's DP from Prince of Darkness onwards. It is a fine extra to see where and how Kibbe got started. The New Wave Nerd - a newly filmed interview with filmmaker Adam Rifkin, who shadowed John Hughes while working as an extra on set. This is my joint favourite disc extra, Rifkin relays how he was cast as the 'New Wave Nerd' and details all of his appearances.
Music for Geeks - a newly filmed interview with composer Ira Newborn. Newborn talks about his involvement in the soundtrack for Sixteen Candles, and Hughes' choice of popular music, why it works, and also why songs in movies sometimes don't. A Very Eighties Fairytale - an all-new video essay written and narrated by writer Soraya Roberts, looking at the film from a contemporary feminist perspective. This contextualises Sixteen Candles in the light of the Me Too movement and is where Arrow's discs always shine; their video essays rule.
Celebrating Sixteen Candles - an archive documentary featuring interviews with cast, crew and admirers, including stars Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, Justin Henry, Haviland Morris and Gedde Watanabe. This feature comes from a previous DVD release but it's still lovely to hear from certain cast members not reinterviewed for this Arrow Video restoration release.
The disc also includes theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots, image galleries, BD-ROM: PDF of the original shooting script, and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck. FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nikki Baughan and Bryan Reesman. These essays, discuss the film's sexual politics and, soundtrack respectively. Both are really informative, long may these booklets continue.
Sixteen Candles is out on Blu-ray on July 22nd