I've reached the point where I've watched 'Sixteen Candles' so many times I have the entire movie memorized. I've talked about it for so long that I'm practically at a loss for words as well. I laugh at jokes and the overall absurdity of being a teenager sooner than intended, before certain scenes even happen. Then I anxiously await the next silly gag — another hearty guffaw or chuckle at the ready. This doesn't mean the movie has suddenly become a chore to watch or lost some of its comedic charm. Quite the opposite, in fact. Being so intimately familiar with it, the characters, the dialogue and its animated look at high school life only confirms the story's continued impact and influence in the lives of many kids. (Don't take my word for it; even my 16-year-old ranks it as one of her favorites.) A couple years shy of its big 3-0, the film remains just as effective as ever at expressing the craziness and awkwardness that is adolescence.
In his thirties by the time he wrote the original story, John Hughes made his directorial debut with 'Sixteen Candles,' after his scripts to 'Mr. Mom' and 'Vacation' proved successful. The film shows he had his thumb on the pulse of cultural trends and had the lingo down pat while also being keenly aware of the travails most kids ineptly suffer through when growing up. The opening credit montage is essentially a yearbook of fashion, fads and blooming teen romance. Kids display their affection by interlocking their pinky fingers or shoving their hands in each other's back pockets. The frustration of opening a hallway locker is contrasted with a variety of cool shades that have their own personalities and a jean jacket adorned with pins. Even though styles have changed over the decades, Hughes makes the morning march to school disarmingly appealing and universal, establishing the perfect playful mood he carries through to the end.
The teen comedy subgenre was already popular during this period, typically of the raunchy, sexually explicit type with shallow plots and a superficial view of modern kids. Though still a bit coarse with at least one nude shot to placate those viewers expecting it, Hughes introduced a genuine, sincere voice that portrayed teenagers with respect and as having to steer through legitimate concerns in a world that always sees them as children. Of course, 'Sixteen Candles' is not exactly an accurate depiction of high school life, a good deal of it being fanciful exaggerations for comedic effect. But they are wonderfully memorable nonetheless, such as the hilarious bus ride home, Joan Cusack's struggle with the water fountain and nerd brothers Bryce (John Cusack) and Cliff (Darren Harris). And finally but most definitely not the least is Gedde Watanabe's unforgettable Long Duk Dong and his misadventures with his "new-style American girlfriend."
But Hughes rises above the goofy humor with a true and honest portrait of the emotions teens confront on a seemingly daily basis. At the center of this classic coming-of-age tale is high school sophomore Samantha, played to perfection by then up-and-coming Molly Ringwald. Her bubbling, charming personality not only makes her amazingly credible but also complements Hughes's effort to do more with the genre. On the eve of her older sister's (Blanche Baker) wedding, everyone in the family forgets her sixteenth birthday. This is a heartfelt conflict that awakens in Samantha a longing for the sort of jubilation often reserved only for children on such special days while still desiring to be seen as an adult. It's a brilliantly engaging device which distinguishes the film from other teen comedies, coupled with the dramatic irony of Sam's crush, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), the jock-type that's more than his stereotype.
Barking at Samantha's heels, both figuratively in the excellent performance and literally as part of a character trait, is Anthony Michael Hall's Ted, aka "Farmer Ted," aka "The Geek." Rather than going with the usual thick glasses, pocket-protector type, Hughes opted for Hall's straightforward approach, which feels more authentic and is the best example of a director aspiring to transcend genre trappings. Along with Ringwald's Samantha and her worst birthday ever, Ted is one of the great highpoints of the film and another reason to keep revisiting this long-time favorite. As far as I'm concerned, when a teen comedy can be watched and enjoyed as often as I've viewed 'Sixteen Candles,' it's a testament to that film's brilliance. And 'Sixteen Candles' is a definite classic in my book.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Sixteen Candles' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack in line with the studio's 100th Annniversary label. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably on an opposing panel to a DVD-9 copy of the movie. With a sleek and shiny slipcover that opens up on the front, the blue eco-lite packaging includes a pamphlet with a code for a Digital Copy download. At startup, viewers go straight into the film, bypassing the usual main menu window. Those menu options can only be accessed while watching the movie by pressing the pop-up menu.
'Sixteen Candles' celebrates on Blu-ray with a very good but slightly troubled 1080p/VC-1 encode (1.85:1). The picture quality is a massive improvement over the several different standard-def incarnations made available for home viewing since the movie's original theatrical screening.
Colors probably benefit the most, looking quite animated and giving the movie a nice energetic feel. Primaries, in particular, are richly-saturated and vivid on several occasions. Flesh tones appear natural, and black levels are better than ever. The transfer is also very well-defined, revealing many surprises in the background which were never all that clear in previous viewings. For example, the ruined cassette tape during Jake's house party is actually a Talking Heads tape, and I could better make out the Stray Cats poster hanging over Samantha's bed when the grandparents are woken up by Jake's late night phone call.
Unfortunately, this surprising clarity comes at a price. I could detect some artificial sharpening here and there, though it's never too detrimental, and a couple scenes come with a tad of aliasing around the fine lines of cars. A few sequences also show some evidence of noise reduction, but thankfully not damaging enough to completely smooth over the image. It's actually rather peculiar because the facial complexions of the older cast members reveal good fine texture and the freckles around Molly Ringwald's nose are visible beneath the makeup. And finally, contrast has been slightly boosted, causing a bit of ringing around the edges of many objects and some posterization in the highlights.
Luckily, these artifacts are not enough to ruin the film's enjoyment and appreciate its many other positives. Namely, that this is the very best this John Hughes classic has ever looked on any home video format.
Unlike the video, the audio for 'Sixteen Candles' doesn't come with any detrimental issues. But like the video, this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also an awesome improvement over its lossy counterparts.
Most importantly, this lossless mix doesn't feign a faux surround sound. It stays mostly true to the original mono design with a large portion of the movie presented in the middle of the screen. Much of the background activity comes through the center channel, generating a good sense of presence and fidelity. Vocals, too, are clear and intelligible, even as everyone is making a loud ruckus all around. A few choice moments have some discrete effects move into the other two front speakers, but they're convincing and never feel forced.
The several song selections and music, on the other hand, nicely broaden the soundstage with excellent warmth and appreciable imaging. The mid-range is clean and well-balanced with great acoustical details of classic 80s tunes. Low bass is also quite robust and accurately responsive, providing the songs with plenty of depth and a nice full-bodied feel. All in all, it's an excellent high-rez track of a very fun soundtrack.
The same featurette made for the "Flashback Edition" is carried over to this Blu-ray edition.
In spite of having the entire movie memorized due to countless viewings over three decades, 'Sixteen Candles' still manages to entertain after all these years, making me laugh, sing-along to the music, and giving me that warm and fuzzy "awww" moment at the end. Although crashing the Blu-ray party with some minor drawbacks, the audio and video presentation is a massive improvement and the best the movie has ever looked. Though it only comes with a couple worthwhile supplements, the overall package is satisfying and recommended for a wonderful John Hughes classic that fans will love.