July 25, 2020

SIXTEEN CANDLES and the Cruelty of Time

SIXTEEN CANDLES (Blu-ray Review)
Starring Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Schoeffling, Haviland Morris, Carlin Glynn, Gedde Watanabe, Deborah Pollack, John Cusack, Paul Dooley, Joan Cusack. Directed by John Hughes. (1984/93 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Time does weird things behind your back.

It doesn't have the courtesy of informing you the Slayer record that once paralyzed your parents will be regarded by your own kids as “Dad music.” It lets you find out the hard way that your off-color joke which had college buddies doubling-over now creates uncomfortable silences in staff meetings. And those manboobs didn't just show up overnight. Time and gravity conspired to cultivate them, one beer at a time, right under your nose.

But to a younger generation, metal was always corny, those off-color jokes were never appropriate and you were born soft & squishy.

Sixteen Candles was – and still is – the second-funniest teen comedy of the '80s, right behind Endless Love. Clever, occasionally sweet and one of the more accurate depictions of suburban teens from that decade, writer-director John Hughes' never topped it (sorry guys, The Breakfast Club was just a little too self-important for my tastes). But even then, the film received some criticism for racial stereotyping and finding humor in date rape, which probably didn't surprise anyone already familiar with Hughes' work with National Lampoon (a magazine never renowned for its political correctness).

Anthony provides a description of his runaway turtle.
For those who grew up on it, though, Sixteen Candles was harmless fun, supremely rewatchable and infinitely quotable. While some of us may now be ashamed to admit we laughed at the running gag of a gong whenever Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe) showed up, most of us could relate to Sam's (Molly Ringwald) insecurity and self-loathing, especially regarding her crush on Jake (Michael Schoeffling), the most popular guy in school who doesn't seem aware she even exists. And I don't care what decade it is...Anthony Michael Hall as “The Geek” is still funny as hell, the film's undisputed MVP.

But the cruelty of time has done funny things to Sixteen Candles, and not just the big hair, floppy disc references and plethora of synthpop. Societal changes has rendered the racial aspects of the film a bit archaic and uncomfortable, non unlike Mickey Rooney's performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's. And no fucking way would the subplot of taking advantage of an unconscious girl fly today.

Not that we should be retroactively offended by these elements. Viewed within the context of the era when it was made, Sixteen Candles is still one of the best  comedies of the decade. But unlike, say, The Lost Boys or some of Hughes' subsequent films, it isn't something I'd likely share with my daughters and expect the same level of enthusiasm (if even to laugh at how silly the 80s were). Theirs is a much more socially-aware generation and girls both are quick to school me whenever I even hint political incorrectness.

That being said, this Blu-ray from Arrow Video is obviously made for those of a certain age who revere Sixteen Candles as an endearing blast from the past. In addition to nicely remastered picture & sound, there are three versions of the film (outlined below). It also comes with a huge batch of bonus features, a lot of which are brand new and consisting of extended interviews with various cast & crew. While Hughes, Ringwald and Hall aren't featured in the new material (Hughes for obvious reasons...RIP), Hall shows up in the archival doc from 2008.

ORIGINAL AND EXTENDED CUTS – The extended cut runs two minutes longer.
ALTERNATE HOME VIDEO SOUNDTRACK – For the original home video release, ten songs were removed due to licensing issues. This cut features that altered version.
ADDITIONAL SCENE – From the extended version.
"CASTING SIXTEEN CANDLES” - Interview with casting director Jackie Burch.
"WHEN GEDDE MET DEBORAH” - Co-star Gedde Watanabe & Deborah Pollack discuss meeting and working together. Deb does most of the talking.
"RUDY THE BOHUNK” - Actor John Kapelos, who plays Brenda's groom-to-be, talks about his role.
"THE NEW WAVE NERD” - Interview with filmmaker Adam Rifkin, who was a kid back then and cast as one of the extras. This is actually my favorite of the interview features.
"THE IN-BETWEEN” - Interview with camera operator Gary Kibbe.
"MUSIC FOR GEEKS” - Interview with composer Ira Newborn.
"A VERY EIGHTIES FAIRYTALE” - This is an interesting video essay by author Soraya Roberts, who analyzes female roles in the film.
"CELEBRATING SIXTEEN CANDLES” - Archival retrospective documentary from 2008.
3 IMAGE GALLERIES – 1) Final draft of John Hughes screenplay; 2) 100 production stills; 3) Poster and video art (18 slides)


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