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16 Candles by John Hughes

Title 16 Candles
Writer/Director John Hughes
Production Company Universal Pictures
Year 1984
Run Time 93 minutes
Rating PG

Teaser Every fifteen year old girl dreams of her perfect Sweet Sixteen. This one gets anything but.

Plot Summary When sophomore Sam Baker wakes up to her sixteenth birthday, ready for the dramatic changes that age is supposed to bring, she expects her family to at least acknowledge it but is blindsided when everyone appears to have completely forgotten in the madness that is her sister's wedding. Faced with being invisible at home as well as school, Sam believes that life would get that much better if only she could grow larger breasts and catch the attention of the good-looking Jake Ryan, her long-time crush. Instead, she has to fend off the ridiculous advances of a freshman geek, deal with a foreign-exchange student brought by her grandparents, come to terms with her mediocre popularity and social ranking in high school, and deal with a string of embarrassing moments that only make her feel like more of an outcast. Her transition into her sixteenth year is anything but sweet; though, it certainly is memorable.

Critical Evaluation While old, this movie speaks across the generations to the struggles young adults face as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Though the movie itself is geared towards a girl's movement into womanhood, it has stretched across the gender divide to be an approachable favorite of young men as well. Writer and director John Hughes was known for his eighties teen movies starring members of the still infamous brat pack, and he did fail in this one. The characters are relateable and time-honored high school stereotypes which young adults can recognize from their own lives and experiences – the jock, the geek, the princess, and the misfit girl trying to find her place in the world. The story itself follows young Sam through a series of misadventures as she struggles to get through high school with her dignity in place, a feat to which every young adult can relate.

About the Author John Hughes was an American film writer, director, and producer. He sadly passed away August 6, 2009 at the age of 59. His works include what are considered the classic teenager/coming of age movies The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off among a slew of other hits. These movies are thought of as “must sees” for young adults because of the way they deal with critical teen issues and boldly bring up subjects others would not touch. Most importantly, he knew how to connect with teenagers and present the content in a way that would not seem pandering or trite – a way in which teenagers would be able to relate to the characters, their situations, and their lives.

Hughes spent the first twelve years of his life in Michigan before his family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, the town which inspired many of his movie settings. After dropping out of the University of Arizona, he started selling jokes to comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. This career move helped land him an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers where he made contact with National Lampoon Magazine, the first step towards his music career.

Primary Genre Comedy

Secondary Genre Romance

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas

1) Should the stereotyped Long Duck Dong be considered a racist character or is it acceptable for comedic effect?

2) Talk about the connections and differences between teenagers of the 80s and today

Interest Age 13+

Challenge Issues Drinking - The teenage characters are shown drinking alcohol at an unsupervised party. This could be defended by showing future scenes in the movie where the characters are reflecting on the bad decisions and regrets of the night.

Why is it included? This is a classic movie that all teenagers, especially girls, need to be exposed to.