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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.87%
Worth A Look54.35%
Average: 28.26%
Pretty Bad: 4.35%
Total Crap: 2.17%

3 reviews, 28 user ratings

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Teen Wolf
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Funny and Bloodless Werewolf Pic"
4 stars

Filmed before yet released after "Back to the Future" to take advantage of Michael J. Fox's breakthrough star performance, this underpraised little treasure is very fun stuff.

In the sweet, spirited, endearing high-school comedy Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox is indelibly appealing as Scott Howard, a seventeen-year-old who's tired of being "average" in the eyes of his peers. Son of a widowed hardware-store-owner father, best friend to the school's hell-raising jokester, and longtime friend and hesitant love interest to a childhood confident, Scott is dissatisfied with his nondescript existence and longs for something more than his quaint small-town realm can provide. He doesn't specifically know what he longs for, exactly, only something other than the unsurprising ordinary. And he's in especially bad shape as of recent: he's part of the starting line-up of a basketball team that irrefutably sucks; and, for the life of him, he's unable to get the school hottie to say so much as two words to him. What better time, then, to discover that you're akin to a family tree of the Canis lupus variety? After a brief series of rather odd indicators -- rattled eardrums from the blowing of a dog whistle; extremely long hairs protruding from an otherwise-hairless chest; insatiable itching -- Scott finally undergoes a full-blown transformation into a werewolf, and when his father demands he open the bathroom door out of concern, and he complies but comes face to face with a father who himself has transformed into a werewolf, he's given a fairly succinct summing-up of the situation by 'ol dad: "An explanation is probably long overdue." Soon thereafter, his newfound athletic prowess starts winning games for the team, he attracts the hottie's lustful affectations, and, naturally, he becomes the most popular kid in school; but he also winds up in the crosshairs of the hottie's jealous Neanderthal of a boyfriend and an overzealous vice principal hell-bent on expelling him.

The film's central story premise has obviously been derived from 1957's I Was a Teenage Werewolf, but the screenwriters, Joseph Loeb III and Matthew Weisman, have wisely jettisoned the horror aspects of that film and given rise to the comic potential in its premise and incorporated it into a coming-of-age story template, and the results are largely successful. Not so much as a drop of blood is shed in Teen Wolf, and the only time violence ever breaks the surface there's a moral responsibility affixed to it -- in addition to enjoying his powers, Scott must also learn to gauge the ramifications of his actions and harness his primal impulses, whether it's in his callous showing-up of his teammates on the court or his ever-developing hostility toward his beau's suitor. Yet even when the film veers into didacticism (ultimately, Scott learns the importance of "being himself" as opposed to relying on his sensationalistic werewolf side to define him), it's good-natured and bouncy enough so its prevailing message isn't rammed down our throats. Director Rod Daniel, whose theatrical debut this is after a five-year stint in tv-series territory, has a confident, agile touch that milks the visual and oral punch lines with grace; he's instinctively in-sync with the material, finding the comic center of a scene while giving it a looseness that allows the actors to feel their way in and give it some finesse of their own; and he has a flair for rhythm and editing in the numerous music montages that carry the story forth with momentum (the soundtrack, by the way, is across-the-board terrific). Teen Wolf really moves, and it does so while still taking the time to give respect both to story and character. It gives a good name to "breezy entertainment" in that its irreverence is incorrigible because it has the good sense not to take itself seriously, which allows it to play by its own set of rules.

When Scott inadvertently reveals his full-moon-reveling self during a basketball game, the immediate shocked reaction from the others isn't surprising, but the follow-through from there is -- rather than the gymnasium clearing out in fits of panicked horror, the crowd starts cheering his swank moves and effortless ball-sinking amid the stunned players, with the referee blowing his resume-game whistle as if someone had just got through tying the laces to their sneakers. Also surprisingly (and, gosh knows, welcomely), that old, tired subplot of dark-hearted government agents descending upon the town to capture this freak of nature is absent -- the only publication that carries the werewolf story is the school paper. (Teen Wolf buoys itself into our good graces by what it doesn't do as well as what it does.) The make-up effects wisely don't try to overdo itself in the An American Werewolf in London vein (they're kept small-scale and appease accordingly), the dialogue is par for the course ("If our guys had sneakers like that there's no telling what they could do."), and the supporting cast more than adept (with James Hampton's father and Jay Tarses' coach the standouts). But the film succeeds or fails with its lead actor, and Michael J. Fox is simply a revelation in a flawless performance of crack comic timing and lucid emotional accessibility. Whether he's strutting through the school hallways in full wolf mode wearing a letter jacket and a Walkman, admiring his self in the mirror after an extensive blow-dry right before the prom, or gleefully biting into a can of soda at an after-game pizza party, Fox shows off his gift for physical comedy while keeping everything disciplined and character-oriented; he doesn't go the uncouthly spastic route a young Jim Carrey did in the dreary Once Bitten -- he gives it gravitas, a rootedness that keeps everything aligned on an affecting human level. Bravo.

Please, oh please, stay away from the abominable "Teen Wolf Too."

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originally posted: 03/18/05 04:57:37
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User Comments

7/21/12 Sean Harrison One of Fox's best. 4 stars
10/23/10 Stormy Rockweather The best performance goes to the extra with his dick hanging out at the end in the crowd :< 5 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini some funny bits 3 stars
5/23/05 Jeff Anderson Ever so predictable, but I enjoyed it all the same & it's way better than TEEN WOLF TOO!!!! 4 stars
4/01/05 Carolyn Cherry It was good but then again I was like 15 3 stars
3/25/05 Carolyn Rathburn I love Michael J. he is entertaining and cute as a button, I enjoyed this movie . 5 stars
3/25/05 hannaho Typical of the 80's. Best left there. 3 stars
3/24/05 monnilove good old hary not scary flick 3 stars
3/23/05 Cheryl Free This is cute - a classic. I've seen it more than once and always enjoy watching it. 4 stars
3/20/05 Chris Stephens 80's classic 4 stars
8/25/04 K Man boof was hot 4 stars
5/15/04 Hal Galikakick Good Cable movie when nothing else is on. 3 stars
3/10/03 Jack Sommersby A wonderful comedy. Well-written, sharply directed, and superbly acted by Fox. 4 stars
2/10/03 Bex Absolutely class 5 stars
6/20/02 Chris Can't face up to most movies... 3 stars
6/20/02 Mr Math Most definitely harmless. PG 80's teen high school comedy. Ya know. 3 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Gives all '80's films a bad name 2 stars
4/16/02 NWO4LIFE Fun little movie. Michael J. Fox's performance puts it over the top. 4 stars
4/13/02 nobody i liked it, though it was unoriginal>>>who the fuck cares, it was an enjoyable movie... 4 stars
4/10/02 Butterbean I liked this as a kid. 4 stars
3/08/02 Mo Anand This is not a bad movie...something good for the family 4 stars
1/27/02 The Third Duran Some of the wolf parts were freaky, like his red eyes. A funny, wacky '80s classic 5 stars
8/31/01 TLsmooth You guys know you like it. 4 stars
8/19/01 Andrew Carden Extremly Unfunny and Boring, Even Though The Effects Are OK. 2 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat Is this a horror-comedy or a comedy that's so bad it's a horror movie, too? 1 stars
1/14/01 GARY EWENS where can i get a copy for a number one fan 4 stars
10/15/00 John Byrne Touching film about a boy coming to grips with his own identity. 4 stars
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  02-Aug-1985 (PG)



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