Friday, August 6, 2021

Fox is a Wolf

Teen Wolf
Director: Rod Daniel
Cast: Michael J. Fox and you've never heard of anyone else
Released: August 23, 1985

Teen Wolf is a movie I've never seen, but I've always been aware of it. In fact, the only scene I've ever seen is when he's transformed into the werewolf and is playing basketball. 

So an interesting fact about this movie: it came out in 1985, the same year another Michael J. Fox came out. You might have heard of it? Back to the Future was kind of a big deal! MJF filmed Teen Wolf before BTTF, however the Teen Wolf people knew BTTF was going to be a big hit (because of Spielberg being an executive producer), so they had Teen Wolf come out AFTER BTTF. Very smart move, though it was pretty obnoxious how they depend on the success of BTTF for their own success (though much, much smaller). 

It is very clear that this movie was made with little money and absolutely no thought to the script. Also, MJF was the only actor I was familiar with (though if you've ever seen Desperate Housewives, one of the basketball team players went on to play one of the husbands). 

High schooler Scott Howard (played by then 23-year-old Michael J. Fox, but hey at least he could pull off looking like a teen unlike some of his castmates!) is your average guy. He's not super popular, but he's also not a total loser. He's just there. He's on his school's basketball team, The Beavers, which is pretty hilarious since MJF is known for being short. I know this isn't the NBA, so I guess a short kid can be on the basketball team. There's also a fat kid who's sort of friends with Scott (they'e friendly, but he isn't one of Scott's main friends) who goes by the nicknames "Chub" or "Chubby." I'm sure he just loves that! I have no idea what his real name is. The basketball team sucks. Remember that, because that's a big plot point. They're playing a team called the Dragons and Scott growls at a rival player named Mick, who looks like he's pushing 30. Remember him, because he will also come back. We are also starting to see Scott's werewolf "symptoms". 

One of Scott's friends is named Boof (TERRIBLE name. I just can't. They don't even explain how it's a nickname -which it MUST be because what kind of monster parents would give their daughter the terrible and ugly name of "Boof"?)  and at first I just assumed she was his girlfriend because she's a pretty girl with dark hair who we see sitting in the stands during the first basketball game, cheering Scott on. After the game, we see them walking home together and Scott asks Boof why Pamela Wells, this beautiful and popular blonde girl at their school, won't say more than two words to him. She gets all haughty and tells him he can do better. Guess I was wrong they were boyfriend and girlfriend! We learn that they've been neighbors and friends since childhood and Boof has a huge crush on Scott that everyone clearly knows about...except for Scott. Isn't it always that way?

We get another scene of Scott experiencing canine tendencies. He's helping his dad at his hardware store and we see this young boy pick up a whistle and blow it. Everyone just goes about their business and doesn't react to anything, but Scott hears this high-pitched sound that is excruciating to his ears and he immedietly covers them with his hands. He sees the boy is about to blow the whistle again, but he goes over to him and stops him and take the whistle from the kid who just looks at him and claims that it's broken. This movie must think their audience is a bunch of morons because they have Scott look at the whistle in his hand and say outloud, to nobody (well, to the audience, I guess), "Dog whistle." Well, duh, no sh*t. I hate it when movies have to spell out something so frickin' obvious. OF COURSE it's a dog whistle. Because he's a werewolf...or about to become one. Get it? Do you get it? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention another sign that Scott is beginning his transformation: when he's changing after basketball practice, he notices a super long (and thick) hair on his otherwise bare chest and it's super gross. 

Then we get another scene where Scott is dropping off supplies at school for the school play, which Pamela is in (and seems to be the only person involved in it! Must be a one-woman show type of thing) and he asks her if she's going to the party that's being held at some random person's house that night. While he's doing this, he notices that his hands are covered in thick dark hair and shoves them into the back pockets of his jeans. Pamela tells him she already has a ride to the party and we see Mick (remember, the guy who was on the other basketball team) come in to pick her up and they kiss and it's obviously they're dating, even though Scott will deny this. Um, dude, it's so obvious they're involved. After Pamela and Mick leave, Scott takes his hands out of his pockets and they're back to normal. By now, if I were him, I would be very concerned. While he is concerned, it's not to the extend that he should talk to his dad or a doctor about this. 

So Scott has this friend name Stiles who I hated so much. It feels like he was a prototype for Stifler, but almost worse. Stiles confused me. Was he supposed to be popular? We see that the only way he can get into this hoppin' party is if he brings a keg of beer and he seems extremely desperate to be at the party, but when he is at the party, he seems to be the life of the party and everyone is having a good time with him (of course, it could be because they're all drunk). It doesn't make sense that Scott and Stiles are friends because Scott seems like a nice, normal guy while Stiles is a douchebag. Even Boof, who seems to be the good girl next door seems to be friends with asshat Stiles. I was always confused if we were supposed to like Stiles or not. I feel like we were supposed to like him and think he was a fun and wacky guy, but no, I didn't care for him. 

Stiles (or could be Styles for all I know) gets his nickname (pretty sure it's a I'm pretty sure Boof has to be a nickname, but again, who would want to be called BOOF?) because he has "style". Or some semblance to it, I guess. He wears these brightly colored, super tight (like ridiculously tight) pants and his shirts, if they don't have a loud and garish print on them, they have some obnoxious message on them. For instance, when we first meet him he's wearing a shirt that says "Life sucks, then you die" (and that's not even the worst shirt he wears to school!), then he wears a shirt that says "Obnoxious" which is a great word to describe him. 

Stiles doesn't have any luck buying beer (not sure why since the actor who played him was 27!), so he wants Scott to carry a plastic gun in his pocket and keep it concealed while he points at it the clerk while he tells him to give him a keg. He tells Scott to pay him so he can't say he was robbed. Uh, pretty sure you're still committing a felony even if you do pay for it! Dumbass! Scott tells him he'll do it, but tosses the toy gun back in the car, so clearly he thinks Stiles is a moron too. While asking the clerk for a keg, his eyes turn red and he seems to hypnotize the man into giving him a keg. Is that a thing with werewolves? I thought that was mostly a vampire thing. My knowledge of werewolves comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, and while I don't want to admit it, Twilight. So, basically, if there's a vampire around, there's a werewolf. However, we never meet any vampires in their town. Not that I know of, anyway! 

Scott and Stiles drive to the party in Scott's father's van and we get this very stupid (and dangerous!) scene of Stiles getting on top of the van in a Hawaiian shirt and these stupid yellow sunglasses that have the slat lenses pretending to surf as "Surfing' USA" by the Beach Boys is blasting from the radio. I guess they need this scene to get Stiles out of the car while Scott is driving and notices his ears are pointed (but return to normal when Stiles gets back in the passenger seat). Scott is probably driving a good 40 mph and this scene had to be a huge liability in this movie. I wonder how many stupid teens from the '80s actually tried this? When they get to the party, Scott tells Stiles nobody will ever catch him up there. Just remember that. 

So they go into the party (where there's already a ton of kegs, so they didn't need to go to all that trouble to get one) and a lot of kids are wearing sunglasses. (Stiles is still wearing his). This is SO DUMB. Why would you a) wear sunglasses INSIDE and b) wear sunglasses when it's NIGHT? God, '80s teens were pretty stupid. No offense if you were a teen in the '80s, but you have to admit that's pretty stupid. To be fair, teens at any point in history are stupid. No offense if you're a teen, but once you're older, you'll understand and agree with me. 

Scott sees Pamela and tries to talk to her, but she quickly shoots him down. Boof sees this and gleefully tells him that Pamela spoke more than two words to him this time. 

So there's this sort of sexual game that's super awkward but everyone seems to love to play it (I guess because they're all drunk and horny?) The idea is that each girl picks out a piece of paper with a name of a boy on it and Stiles, who is the host of this game, gives them something to do. For instance, Chubby has to eat a bowl of jello that Stiles dumps down a girl's shirt. If I were that girl, I would be PISSED, but she is whoo hooing and having a grand old time. Guess she was pretty drunk! 

We see Boof has someone named Malcolm. We see Pamela, who is standing right next to her, has Scott. (Oh, if only Scott knew!) Her reaction is rolling her eyes. I thought she was going to trade with Boof (since they're standing right next to each other), but when it's Boof's turn, she lies and says she has Scott. Which, I say, good for her. Go for it. It's not like Stiles or anyone is checking the piece of paper with the name on it! I really thought that Scott was eventually going to find out it was Pamela who actually had his name and he was going to get mad at Boof, but that never happens. Their "task" is that they have to spend two minutes in a closet and "anything goes" which is a little icky. I'm also sure "Two Minutes in a Closet" isn't a thing. Since two minutes isn't really that long, Boof just goes for it and starts making out with Scott. We will later find out that getting turned on makes his lupine side emerge. His claws come out (literally) and she slaps him for being too aggressive. When Stiles opens the door without any warning, the two of them are just standing next to each other and nothing looks out of the ordinary, neither of them are even disheveled. However, when Boof exits the room, we see the back of her shirt is all torn up and her back is a little red (thought not shredded and bloody which you think it would be...guess they didn't want it to be too gruesome or too obvious for the partygoers who don't even seem to notice her shirt is all tore up). I thought this was a good reveal.

Scott knows something wrong is going on with him..even though he's experienced other changes (the ears, the hairy hands) before this and that didn't seem to alarm him, but now he is? Maybe it's because he "hurt" somebody this time. He runs home and upstairs to the bathroom. His dad seems concerned and asks him what's going on behind the closed door. He asks if he can come in (why would you ask that?) and Scott replies with, "I'm doing something in here." Dude, don't respond with THAT. What Scott is "doing" isn't what you think. You see, he can't open the door because he's transferred into a werewolf! Like, full transformation. To me, he almost looks more apelike than werewolf. I wonder if Tim Burton got his inspiration for his Planet of the Apes rendition (which I never saw) because that's what it reminded me of. The best compliment I'll give for the transformation scene is that it wasn't terrible....for 1985. We see him grow fangs, his fingernails grow long and sharp, his eyes protrude from his face, and he is covered in hair. (Fur?) 

His dad orders him to open the door "right this minute" (and uses his full name, so you know he means business!) Scott says "Okay, Dad" and while he is slowly going towards the door to open it, I really thought he was going to change back to his normal self the second before his dad saw him. But instead, he remains a werewolf, but what is even more shocking is that his dad is a werewolf too. He is covered in white fur and looks like the most non-threatening werewolf ever. Now, I actually didn't see the trailer until AFTER I saw the movie because if I had seen it before, I would have been spoiled by this reveal because it is in the trailer! I mean, I guess it really isn't that big of a deal because if he's a werewolf, then it would make sense it's genetic. His dad tells him he never told him about it because sometimes it skips a generation and was hoping it would pass Scott by. I did laugh when MJF says, "Well, Dad, it didn't pass me by. It landed on my face." Oh, and I should mention the trailer blatantly is riding the coattails of BTTF because at the end, the trailer guy says, "Starring Michael J. of Back to the Future!" Yep, uh huh, they actually went there. 

But wait a minute! Remember that scene back in the hardware store where the kid is blowing the dog whistle? Why didn't the dad react? I guess you could say he knows how to handle it or they didn't want to reveal the "big surprise" (even though they already did in the trailer), but they could have had him quickly glance up when the whistle is blown, so when people went back to watch the movie, they would have noticed that bit. But, let's be honest, who's going back to watch this movie? 

Scott is too upset to talk at the moment, but the next morning, when he's back to normal, his dad tells him he's going to be able to do a lot of things that other guys can't and Scott snarks back with, "Like chase cars and bite the mailman?" His dad gives him the Spiderman speech: "When you want it, you're gonna have great power. And with great power goes a greater responsibility." Uh, what? I have no idea what "power" he has in this movie. I guess he does have a little more agility than when he's normal Scott, but other than that it's not like he's on Wolverine levels of power. We also find out that his mother, who is now deceased, was also a werewolf. His dad tells him werewolves are people, just like everyone else "with certain obvious exceptions." 

During school that day, Scott has a hard time concentrating and everything seems to remind him of wolves. I always thought werewolves always emerge when there's a full moon, but it seems he can pop into werewolf form at any notice and he needs to know how to control that. 

Stiles is wearing another one of his colorful shirts that would never fly in a high school today, when I went to high school, and I'm pretty sure not back in the '80s! It says, "What are you looking at, Dick Nose?" Nice. Stiles shows us even further what a nice guy he is after school when Scott tells him he needs to tell him something and Stiles replies with, "Are you going to tell me you're [gay]? If your'e going to tell me you're [gay], I don't think I can handle it." Except Stiles doesn't use the word "gay"; he says a very homophobic and terrible word.  F*ck you, Stiles. Seriously, we're not suppose to like this guy, right? Cuz I hated him before this scene, but now I really detest him. Even worse, Scott, who is supposed to be a much better person than Stiles, replies back with, "No, I'm not gay" (again, he doesn't use that word). Also, apparently Stiles thinks Scott being gay is way worse than him being a murderer. Not that Scott is a murderer as a werewolf, but you know, werewolves kinda have that reputation of killing people. Yeah, this movie aged really great! 

In the middle of a basketball game, Scott transforms into a werewolf and this is the only scene I had seen before watching the movie. Whenever I think of this movie (which is pretty much never), I always think of a werewolf playing basketball. As normal Scott, he's in the middle of a big pileup with the ball and you hear a growling noise. After the other players have cleared away, he has become a werewolf and everyone is staring at him. Some people are frightened, but most are just curious. Werewolf Scott just bounces the ball like nothing is wrong and runs and makes a basket (since the other team is doing nothing to stop him), then makes another one and the crowd is cheering. The Beavers are thrilled because now they're winning and have good player on their team.

Nobody seems to have a problem that a werewolf lives in their town or question it all. I mean, good for them, I guess? This town may be homophobic as hell, but at least they're accepting of werewolves, so one step at a time I guess.

We next get a montage of Werewolf Scott enjoying his newfound popularity. He gets free pizza after the game, he is seen walking down the school corridor the next day in his letter jacket and sunglasses listening to his headphones as he slaps high fives to passing student and breaks dance with one of the only black students at the school. Oh yeah, that was a bit cringe-y. He looks absolutely ridiculous. Stiles starts selling wolf merch. T-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, buttons that say "I [heart] Teen Wolf" and "Wolf Fever". My question is why? Who would buy that crap? I bet to this day he still has boxes of all that stuff in his parents' basement. 

Everyone seems to be enamored with Scott the wolf, including Pamela. ESPECIALLY Pamela. She tells him that Kirk, the director of the school play also wants Scott in it a well. The play seems to be some kind of Gone with the Wind ripoff. I had to laugh when Scott is rehearsing (and acting terrible) and Kirk is trying to get his attention by saying, "Wolf...Wolf....Wolf person, whatever your name is." 

Like I said, Pamela is very into Scott the wolf, so much so that she has sex with him (off screen) and she makes sure he's the wolf while they're doing it (hmmm, is she into beastiality?) After their little tryst in the dressing room, they go bowling (Scott is still the wolf) and wouldn't you know it, Mick is there and Pamela makes sure he sees that she is all over Scott and making out with him. When Scott walks her home and asks her to the spring dance, she tells him she's going with Mick because he is still her boyfriend. Um, what? Scott is just as baffled as I am and is all, What about happened this afternoon where we slept together, then went on a date? Well, he didn't say that exactly, but he certainly implied it. Somebody's gotta say it, but Pamela kinds sucks. 

Remember when I said (like two paragraphs ago?) that everyone absolutely loved Scott the werewolf? Well, there are a couple people who don't particularly care for him. One of them is this kid named Lewis, who is friends with Scott and Stiles. He is a couple years younger than him and we see him in a couple scenes with them. He's just sort of there, you know? He doesn't really add anything to the plot. Scott mentions to Stiles that he hasn't seen Lewis in awhile and we find out that he's been avoiding Scott because he's scared of him. And that's that. It's never brought up again. Like, seriously, what was the point? I guess they had to have SOMEONE in this town who was scared of a werewolf. 

Stiles must come from a wealthy family because he's just throwing away money left and right. First it was buying all that useless merch and now he has bought a van that he refurbished so it says "Wolfmobile" on the side and has a terrible drawing of a werewolf on it. I mean, really.  He is about to go van surfing with Scott driving, but Scott changes into werewolf form and tells him, "These waves are mine." I guess Scott the human would never do that, but Scott the werewolf is all about the van surfing. While Stiles is driving the van through town and blasting Surfing' USA, Scott is doing backflips, the splits, and even does a handstand which he holds for a few solid moments. They pass by the hardware store and Scott's dad sees him acting like a jackass and will later tell him he was making a fool of himself. He tells Scott he "needs to get a hold of it", it meaning his werewolf powers, I guess. 

The other person who isn't crazy about Scott the werewolf is Boof. While walking to school together, Boof asks him if he has any plans for the spring dance and that's when he asks her if she would like to go with him and she says she'll go with him, but only with him and not the wolf. He tells her, "I gotta be the wolf. That's what everyone expects." Boof tells him she won't attend the dance with him, but she will save a dance for him. 

When Scott enters the room at prom dressed in a white suit (and of course he arrives as the werewolf), a song called "Big Bad Wolf" starts playing and all the kids part to let Scott into the middle of the room and everyone starts dancing to the song. They do this dance move where they form their hands into claws and swipe at the air.  I have no idea if this song existed before the movie or if it was made specifically for the movie. I'm hoping for the latter because it's kind of a weird song. The lyrics read very sexual (maybe my mind is in the gutter, but I don't think so), but yet there's a line about not looking like a grandma. Like, I get it's a Little Red Riding Hood reference, but this is a weird (and slightly inappropriate for a prom!) song. In fact, all the music in this movie is weird and did not age well as I have never heard of it and I'm guessing not all of these songs were written specially for this movie. There's no way. The songs are much like the actors...I've never heard of them (save for Michael J. Fox, of course).

For some reason, this songs seems to rev up Boof and she takes Scott (who she was dancing with) out into the hall and starts to make out with him. Keep in mind that he's still in wolf form and I thought she didn't like the wolf? I thought she preferred Scott as his human self? I must say Boof looks very '80s in her white strapless prom dress and lace gloves. 

They come back to the dance and Scott is now in human form. Pamela is there with Mick, who looks more like a teacher chaperone than a student because the actor was 27. At one point, it is mentioned he is 20 because he was held back...because he went to jail or something? IDK. And I don't really care. Mick is still jealous because Pamela tells him she will dance with Scott if he asks her. He tells Scott to stay away from Pamela and to "stick with his own kind like that little tramp." He is referring to Boof, but it sounds like he's describing Pamela. This makes Scott angry and he turns into the wolf and slashes Mick's shirt revealing his tattoo and abs. Does he draw blood? No. However, the action of what he's done freaks him out and he vows he's not going to be the wolf anymore and decides to quit the basketball team since he sucks at it when he's not in wolf form. 

But during the last scene, a basketball game between the Beavers and the Dragons (that's Mick's team, remember), Scott comes in during the middle of the game and they let him play. He wants to prove they can win the game without him being the wolf. I'm sure there's some lesson we're supposed to learn here. 

I was very confused. Did they change their mascot to the Wolves? There's a sign that says "Becontown Wolves", but someone is still dressed in the beaver mascot costume. Make up your mind, you can't be both mascots! Also, why didn't they just start out as the wolves in the first place? Maybe they thought it would be too on the nose, but this movie is so stupid, you might as well just have the werewolf play basketball on a team called the Wolves. I mean, why not? 

Scott scores the winning point (of course he does) and an incredibly cheesy, schmaltzy song comes on. You have to read the lyrics to see how bad it is: 

"Funny how sometimes life just changes overnight. Magically, everything you do turns out so right. Just like that you pull rabbits out of your hat. You've got the charm that even wizards can't explain how to make rainbows from a single drop of rain." 

Now that Scott is popular and won the game, Pamela wants to be with him and is going to congratulate him (and make out with him presumably), but he brushes past her to kiss Boof because she's the one he wants to be with. 

The movie ends in the oddest way. It's a still shot of the crowd in the bleachers. Scott is among them with Boof and his dad, but they aren't even centered. In fact, it took a few seconds for my eyes to focus on them because I didn't see the right away! 

Another thing about this movie is that I believe it is set in Nebraska (in the small fictional town of Beacontown) and as someone who lives in Nebraska, this makes me feel deeply ashamed. They never actually say they're in Nebraska, but there are clues such as there's Husker memorabilia in the office of the basketball coach and there's also a Huskers banner or calendar or something in Scott's kitchen. Thank God we have Alexander Payne so nobody immediately jumps to this movie when they think of movies that take place in Nebraska (and at least the Payne movies that take place in Nebraska were filmed here!)

I know there was a sequel to this movie that starred Jason Bateman, who I guess, was a poor man's MJF at the time. I think he's supposed to be Scott's cousin. I guess if his sister in real life can play MJF's sister on Family Ties, then makes sense he can play his cousin! I guess MJF refused to be in the sequel because he hated the original movie. Plus he knew he had something better with Back to the Future, so can you really blame him? I can't. This movie is just terrible.

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