I probably saw 16 Candles in the theater, as I was 16 when it came out. I do know I watched John Hughes’ genre-changing teen film again and again on VHS and on television. I identified with Molly Ringwald: I was a funny looking redhead with too-short hair and nowhere near the cute clothes she sports in this. I was a little afraid to watch it again after so many years. What if the suck fairy had got into it. My worry wasn’t unwarranted; there were a few things that nagged me. Overall, though, it was what I remembered, a sweet, funny film about a girl whose family is so wrapped up in the upcoming wedding of her older sister they completely forget her sixteenth birthday. I’d never noticed the Jane Austen-ish echoes before, but found them pretty clear this time, with a sensible girl surrounded by crazy relatives. Molly Ringwald is charming and likable as Samantha, Michael Shoeffling smolders sweetly as Jake Ryan, but it’s really Anthony Michael Hall who steals the show. He’s hilarious, both physically and verbally and his presence is what stops this from being too whiny or navel-gazing.
I have to admit to disappointment both with the racial stereotype of Long Duk Dong, and about a morally ambiguous morning after scene, but overall I thought the movie held up well. I still think the scene in front of the church at the end is one of the sweetest, most romantic ones in film. I’ve never understood the women who think Lloyd Dobbler was the perfect guy. Jake Ryan was it, for me, long before I knew the debt he owed to Mr. Darcy.