Review: Teen Wolf (PG) / Director: Rod Daniel / Screenplay: Jeph Loeb, Matthew Wiseman, Tim Hayes / Starring: Michael J Fox, James Hampton, Lorie Griffin, Susan Ursitti, Jerry Levine, Mark Arnold / Release date: (UK) February 6th
More Back to the 'Fur'-ture than Back To the Future (Michael J Fox’s other - and rather better - box office hit from 1985) Teen Wolf, like its titular lupine hero, is a curious beast.
It’s a lightweight High School fantasy parable which tells kids to hey, just be yourself, you don’t need to be a freak and, of course, hailing from the decade that taste forgot, it’s full of bad hair, bad fashion and seriously bad thumping synth music. But, despite concerning itself with a boy who can turn himself into an animal, it’s not remotely interested in being scary - no one really bats an eyelid when Fox’s Scott Howard turns into a wolf in the middle of a basketball game. It doesn’t, clearly, take itself too seriously but then it’s also not even remotely funny with a flat script devoid of wit and with no real stakes for anyone to play for unless you’re particularly bothered by the outcome of a basketball match. But we have to remember that this is 1985 and Teen Wolf understandably has more in common with the Ferris Bueller generation of teen movies than the slightly edgier fare kids are used to in the 21st century.
Teen Wolf is all about Scott Howard, a something-and-nothing seventeen year-old whose ideal girl is dating a dork (hey, this 1980s-speak is cool) and whose basketball team is a flabby waste of space. Scott notices strange things happening to his body, the strangest being his total transformation into a cuddly-looking werewolf. He discovers it’s a genetic thing when it happens to his father too but, instead of going on the expected slaughter rampage Scott, who retains his own personality when he’s a wolf and can turn his transformations on and off at will, uses his animal strength and agility to drastically improve the fortunes of his ailing basketball team. As you would. He also pursues his love interest, clashes with her jock boyfriend, and fails to recognise that his best friend (the curiously-named ‘Boof’, played by Susan Ursitti) is also probably his soul mate.
Teen Wolf is so painfully a product of its time it’s hard to be subjective about it coming to it for the first time twenty-odd years later. It’s throwaway stuff, not especially engaging or well realised - Fox’s werewolf costume is laughable - and the script completely ignores any real-world consequences of a boy turning into a monster. It’s just accepted amongst his contemporaries and no one’s really much bothered about the hows and whys beyond the fact that it makes him a great basketball player. It makes him a great dancer too, apparently, and I think my patience might have finally run out when the wolf dresses himself in a white Saturday Night Fever suit and strikes that Travolta pose before sauntering off to throw a few 1980s shapes at the High School dance.
Teen Wolf is cheesy and harmless with no sense of danger or excitement and absolutely no sense of believability. Fox rises above the limp material and emerges with his reputation pretty much intact (even though he was later said to have remarked “I have no idea what I thinking of” when recalling his participation in the movie) but ultimately this film - and indeed, this crisp and colourful budget-price Blu-ray release - is for nostalgists only and those who fondly remember not only Teen Wolf but also an era when Hollywood could get away with putting out truly trashy teen twaddle like this with a straight face.
Special features: Trailer + ‘sneak peak’ preview at the recent MTV series which shares the name.