(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Andy, you Goonie!!! 😉 xoxo)
High School is such an awkward period in all of our lives. Maybe the struggles we faced weren’t nearly as bad as they seem now, but back then it would make or break you or shape who you would become. The scare of bullies, struggling to fit in and find your place, finding out who you are and who you will become, striving to be the very best on the sportsball team and then finding out your family is a bunch of werewolves. Well, maybe not exactly that last thing, but the Michael J. Fox teen comedy Teen Wolf explores that very idea. Perhaps it’s some sort of allegory for going through puberty and trying to fit in? If it is, it’s a rather thin one.
So, here’s an unpopular opinion. Have you ever really liked something or at least you thought you did, because of how it’s viewed in pop culture, but then you go back and revisit it and it’s not all that great? That’s Teen Wolf for me. Who doesn’t remember this movie and who didn’t love Michael J. Fox? He’s the charismatic underdog you want to see win the big game. You want to see him give the jerk his comeuppance and you want to see him get the girl. Along the way, he’ll discover who he is, where he fits in and that the girl for him was beside him the whole time. I know I just described every teen comedy ever, but did they all have werewolves? I think not! Does that make this a better film? Eh… well, no.
Michael J. Fox plays your average teen, Scotty Howard, and when I say average, I do mean average. He’s smart, but not brilliant. He plays on the basketball team and he does alright, but he’s no superstar, but he doesn’t completely suck either. He’s not invisible to girls, but he’s no Casanova either. I think you get my drift. Scotty lives with his dad, who seems pretty lame for the most part, but the guy cares about his son and you get the idea that there was some tragedy in his life seeing as how the mother isn’t around. I think maybe it was hinted at, but I don’t believe it was. He has a connection to the principal who has it in for Scotty, always harassing him, but the conclusion to that is rather lackluster. We don’t want the dad character to be too sympathetic and besides, we’ve already wasted the legal limit of cliches on Scotty.
When Scotty isn’t looking way too sweaty playing shooty-hoops at school, he’s hanging out and partying with his friend Stiles. I think everyone remembers Stiles from this movie. Stiles is, like, basically what an STD would be in human form. Actually, they may be an inaccurate description, because you would need to get laid for that to happen and I don’t see anyone or anything sleeping with Stiles. This is a character that was definitely written by an adult who thinks what kids perceive as cool. In every scene, he’s wearing not only different sunglasses, but different t-shirts with such eloquent phrases that in no scream ‘overcompensation,’ like “life sucks and then you die” or “what are you looking at dicknose.” He’s constantly bursting into whatever room it may be, slapping everyone’s shoulders and giving them unwarranted nicknames and trying to make jokes that fall flat. If Stiles were a real person, you would want to kick him in the dick so hard and watch him double over in pain and then just as the pain was starting to go away, you kick him again and repeat. There’s a particular scene that sums up his character perfectly when Scotty isn’t sure what to do about being a werewolf, so he turns to his friend Stiles for advice. Panicked and sweaty, Scotty tells Stiles that he has a secret he needs to tell him. This makes Stiles stop searching for his stash and put a defensive guard up and asks, “Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.” Scotty then has to quickly reassure his friend that he isn’t gay, but rather a werewolf, because that’s so much better. Don’t worry, homophobe, your buddy isn’t gay… he’s a mythical creature with brute strength and insatiable taste for people. Only in the ‘80s.
Also, Scotty can turn into a werewolf willy-nilly or whenever he’s angry (I guess?). The movie doesn’t really come up with a solid rule on when that can happen and he doesn’t really become a wild animal that goes around eating people. In Teen Wolf, he becomes really good at basketball and dancing and now girls want his hairy wolf dong. After slaying the hot cheerleader poon (who was secretly doing so to make her boyfriend jealous, because the film needs a human antagonist), this starts to get to his head and he understandably gets an ego about it. He parades around school and town as the wolf and everyone is high fiving him. He’s kinda become Stiles, who is now selling Teen Wolf merchandise. I’m not joking. This movie is meta. Also, I need to bring up the fact that the first time he turns into the wolf, nobody seems scared or shocked or at the very least, shitting their pants or screaming. They just look taken aback briefly and then once he starts doing fancy basketball tricks, they cheer their heads off and applaud. I’ve never seen a crowd latch onto something so positively so quickly.
Even though the film is about Scott’s struggles about fitting in by acting like he’s someone else, the person who is really getting shit on is his cute, adorable friend named Boof who has the hots for him. He’s constantly pushing her to the side to oogle over the cheerleader, but she still stands by his side and tells him they should be more than friends. Even after everything he does to her, she still sticks with him. I know it’s because she’s always liked who Scott really is and she can overlook the total dickhead he’s become as the wolf, but I find it inexcusable. I actually felt sorry for her character and wished she would’ve dumped him at the end for a hint of realism, but no. They live happily ever after. Girl, get yourself a real man.
If I were to sum up Teen Wolf in just one word after this recent revisit, I would have to say it’s underwhelming. Apparently, Scream Factory must have thought so too or perhaps anyone involved with the movie, because this Blu-ray release is pretty bare bones and, once again, underwhelming for a new release of such a former popular movie. Apparently, Michael J. Fox hates this movie and hated making it so much, I can see why he wouldn’t want to talk about this film for some extra features. To be fair to this release, it is a brand new high definition transfer that looks incredible, even if it reveals a lot of the faults in the makeup. There’s also an incredibly lengthy, in depth featurette called Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf that is nearly two and a half hours long. Other than that it’s the basic roll call of a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Not even a single commentary from anyone involved, which is kinda weird that Scream couldn’t find anyone willing to sit down and talk about this movie. Or they didn’t try to find anyone, because maybe they realized that nobody really cares about this movie.
I don’t want to take anything away from the movie, I don’t think it’s terrible (which I know must be hard to believe after my ranting), but I don’t think it’s spectacular or this monstrous hit comedy it seems to be selling itself as. Even though Michael J. Fox hates the film, he does a great job as a kid struggling with typical high school problems… and sweating a lot. Seriously, in every transformation or basketball scene, he’s drenched, even if he’s barely done anything. No human could possibly sweat that much. I also thought James Hampton and Susan Ursitti were great and very compassionate in their roles as Scotty’s support. The makeup effects are pretty decent and don’t look horrifying or grotesque like you would see in a horror film, but that’s kinda the point. It’s supposed to be cute and charming, but this makes the transformations scenes (if you can even call them that) suffer. Aside from his ears stretching a little bit, I don’t believe we see an actual transformation and this is during the era of werewolf movies, like The Howling or American Werewolf in London. However, those were horror movies showcasing the agony and the disfiguring transformation that would takes place, whereas Teen Wolf is more about a wolf being a cool thing. The shots will often cut away briefly and cut back to Scotty all wolfed out and ready to surf on top of vans. Oh yeah, he surfs on top of a van to The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA, because apparently the movie wanted to start an unneeded trend and set a spike in accidental deaths by stupid teenagers.
Looking back, I’m totally shocked that this movie was popular enough to spin-off a sequel, a Saturday morning cartoon and a reboot TV show in 2011. Sure, this movie is (or was) popular, but I don’t ever remember hearing people clamoring for more of it or talking about the same way we do something like Friday the 13th. When I was a kid, we all had heard about this movie, but we weren’t talking about it like it was the funniest movie ever, like Ghostbusters. It was often mentioned in passing with little enthusiasm. Maybe there is a secret underground cult that really, really loves this movie and that’s the reason it’s so wildly popular, because otherwise I just don’t see it. Teen Wolf is riddled with cliches that were already feeling tired by the mid ‘80s and the only reason this film sticks out from the slew of emotionless, characterless teen comedies of that time is because, I hate to say this, the filmmakers were smart enough to make its main character a goddamn werewolf. One little, odd change and that’s all it took for this move to apparently become a smash hit. I don’t hate the film, but personally I don’t see it’s popularity nor do I remember it. Hell, nobody is even really talking about this upcoming Blu-ray, so maybe it’s one of those movies that is trying to sell you its own hype. Stiles must be part of its marketing.