Teen Wolf Review

What if there had been no Back to the Future? What if, in 1985, Michael J. Fox, the little known young actor, stars in Teen Wolf to mostly critical derision. The film flops, Michael J. Fox recedes into obscurity, and his potential as a leading man is never recognized. But that’s the premise of a Back to the Future parody, maybe on Robot Chicken. Instead, Teen Wolf came out a month later than Back to the Future, which was still the number one film in America, and became a hit despite itself. You might well have seen it sometime on Comedy Central in the middle of the day.

Ah the teen comedy--sweet teen comedy--the sweet nougat center of 1980s Hollywood. The only problem with the teen comedy (hahaha, only problem) is that it just doesn’t have that many variants. But Teen Wolf may well be the only horror-fantasy-sports-teen comedy. Teen Wolf practically screams “conceived in a pitch meeting.” The cast of cliched types are all here: the melodramatic vaguely homosexual drama teacher, the super-authoritarian vice principal, the geek who tries too hard to be cool, the kindly honest dad, the buxom blonde dating the dickish jock, who the protagonist crushes on but turns out to be less desirable then the earnest dark haired best friend.

Scott Howard (Fox) is on the basketball team- but they’re the worst. They stink. I mean, one of their players is a huge fat kid who keeps food in his locker! Plus Scott has to work in the lame hardware store his dad owns, and he has a loser friend, Rupert ‘Stiles’ Stilinksi (Jerry Levine), who thinks hes so cool (and who, in his painted on red jeans, yellow shutter shades and ironic t-shirts looks straight outta Williamsburg). But then Scott starts turning into a werewolf, and instead of filling him with an insatiable desire for human flesh, it fills him with desire for slam dunks!

At first it turns him into a social outcast, but eventually, with the help of his dad’s advice (turns out he’s also a werewolf, runs in the family) he gets control of his powers and uses them for good! Like getting the girl and winning the big game. Like buying a keg of beer for the big party.

Teen Wolf isn’t bad, exactly. Michael J. Fox is charming, and shows off his solid slapstick. It’s not ugly or overlong or more boring than you’d expect. The synth score is one of the better ones in 80s teen flicks, and there are some genuinely funny moments. When Scott transforms into a werewolf the first time it’s totally creepy. And Levine has some great timing. The two have some comedic chemistry.

There’s some definite race coding going on here--the fantasy of the white boy becoming black—suddenly experiencing minority status without any of the structural consequences. It’s not just symbolically conincidental that suddenly, as soon as his body is covered in brown hair, he becomes irresistible to women, excellent at basketball and knows how to break dance (yeah, seriously).

But that’s not really the problem either. It’s just not very good. It’s classic mediocre eighties cinema, plain and simple, with a premise way too goofy for words. I mean you’ve seen it before, a thousand times, an inspirational story about luck and individuality that turns into a cautionary tale about over confidence and selfishness but still ends with the protagonist becoming his dad, getting the girl and learning a valuable lesson. And all in 90 minutes!

If you really need to just put your brain on snooze, you could do much worse. But why are you putting your brain on snooze?

Blu-ray Bonus Features

In the extras you'll find a sneak peek at the upcoming MTV Teen Wolf TV series (seriously? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE?) in which it seems he plays lacrosse rather than basketball. It looks awful. I’d cancel it based on this trailer alone. And then there's a theatrical trailer for the movie. In other words, nothin’.

"Teen Wolf" is on sale March 29, 2011 and is rated PG. Comedy. Directed by Rod Daniel. Written by Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman, Tim Hayes. Starring James Hampton, Jerry Levine, Michael J Fox.

Willie Osterweil


New Reviews