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The tender age of adolescence

Directed by John Hughes

As Samantha Baker, who has just turned the pivotal teen age in Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald is a prototypical adolescent. Her body remains gangly, and her freckles have refused to go away. And her mind is always one step ahead of her mouth: the 16-year-old actress's lower lip drops comically, and her words trail off as she abandons her previous thought. Ringwald, whose first role was as John Cassavetes' sardonic daughter in Tempest, brings a great amount of charm to the role of Samantha. Like that character Sixteen Candles is friendly and not to be taken seriously for a minute.

The first-time director and screenwriter John Hughes is no stranger to domestic comedy, having written the scripts for the hugely successful National Lampoon's Vacation and Mr. Mom. The tone of Sixteen Candles is generally less frantic and more firmly rooted in reality than those films. Samantha believes her 16th birthday to be the most important one of her life, and it appals her that her family has forgotten to celebrate. Instead, her father (Paul Dooley) and mother (Carlin Glynn) focus on the next-day nuptials of her older sister, Ginny (Blanche Baker); her younger brother, Mike (Justin Henry), is totally obnoxious toward her and everyone else.

Like most young adolescents Samantha harbors a fantasy of dating a handsome senior (Michael Schoeffling) and must instead face the reality of a pipsqueak (Anthony Michael Hall) pursuing her with unwanted ardor. Since Sixteen Candles is a fantasy itself, Samantha winds up in the senior's large and capable arms. In addition to the delightful Ringwald, the rest of the actors speckle small pleasures throughout the movie. Schoeffling, who played the amputee soldier in the recent Racing With the Moon, manages to give the good-looking senior some sensitivity. As Samantha's father, Dooley is convincingly sympathetic and ingratiating; as her odious brother, Henry, in his first role since he played the son in Kramer vs. Kramer, does a disarming aboutface.

Sixteen Candles is hardly original (it repeats the wreck-the-house party from last year's Risky Business) and it has obviously been made with the movie audience demographics firmly in mind. That manipulation aside, it still manages to be as sweet as the age it portrays. --L.O'T.