Sweet 16

A still of Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling sitting together in ‘Sixteen Candles.’

Since it’s playing locally soon, and I surprisingly have never seen it, I decided to watch “Sixteen Candles” (1984) for the first time. I didn’t know what to think, and went into the film with relatively low expectations — somehow, I was still disappointed.

‘80s teen protagonist Molly Ringwald stars as Samantha Baker, a girl who goes unnoticed by both her high school peers as well as her family, who completely forgot it was her 16th birthday because of her sister’s impending wedding.

Sam’s love interest, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling, “Mermaids”) is unattainable at best. He is older and more popular, but when he discovers a note that Sam laughably failed to pass to her friend, he realizes that Sam has a crush on him and begins to pursue her.

But first, Sam is pursued by the persistent Geek (Anthony Michael Hall, “The Breakfast Club”), who even coerces her into giving him her underwear so he doesn’t lose a bet, after a really pathetic guilt trip.

“Sixteen Candles” has that ‘80s movie vibe, for better or for worse. Some things have that sentimental charm, but in other moments (characters talking at the same time, another breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience), it just translates as cheesy and outdated.

I think that in a good movie, these traits can be charming. In a tacky movie like “Sixteen Candles,” there’s no chance that they can be remotely affectionate.

The social climate has also changed a lot in the 30 years since this movie was released. In one scene, Geek is coerced by Jake to take advantage of his girlfriend when she is quite literally passed out drunk.

“Sixteen Candles” also did nothing to break any racial or social barriers. The ugly stereotype of Long Duk Dong (Gary Watanabe, “Mulan”) is almost reminiscent of that of Mr. Yunioshi (who was played by Mickey Rooney) in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a movie that was made 20 years former. I would have liked to know my former Race in the Media professor’s take on that.

“Sixteen Candles” is showing at 7 p.m. April 6 and 8 at the Greenbriar Theater on Appalachian State University’s campus as a part of the Vintage Film Series. Admission is $1.

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