Thursday, October 29, 2009

Week of Reel Whorror!: Pointless Nostalgia Day 4

Welcome to Day 4 of the
Week of Reel WHorror!

If you recognize that weirdo mug above, you already know what today's movie selection is. The following is more of a confession of silliness on my part than a real anecdote. Back in middle school, I was on the basketball team. And frankly, I sucked. Come to think of it a lot of us did since most of the points in every game were scored by the same two players. For those unfamiliar with the times, this was back in our country's history when if you sucked, you didn't get participation trophies, you got ridiculed and you felt like shit for stinking up the court.

You can imagine what a neat fantasy it was for me, when I was stepping onto the court, to hope that I'd get into some sort of tussle over the ball only to lose my cool and wolf out, wolf up, wolf-it, like Michael J. Fox did in Teen Wolf. I know; you're thinking, you so crazy! But seriously, think about it: we were the wildcats with dark-green-on-yellow uniforms; the Beavers wore dark-blue-on-yellow. Both teams sucked. And for those who don't know, my last name is Howard, just like Scott and his father Harold. A silly fantasy? Definitely. But what kid (or hell, adult for that matter) doesn't wish they had some cool power to get them through tough times? You may laugh, but I'd love to hear you 'fess up your flights of whimsy. Until you muster the courage, let's take a quick look at:

Teen Wolf

Release: 08.23.85
DVD Release: 09.01.00
Rated PG
1 hour, 31 minutes

Full Price

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox, Back to the Future) is a below-average high school student. He sucks at basketball, he struggles with classes and wishes the hot girl in school would say two words to him. Like the tagline reads, he always wanted to be special...but he never expected this! One night, Scott discovers he carries the dominant trait for lycanthropy. It's not long before he loses his temper on the b-ball court and wolfs out in front of the student body. His new abilities enhance his athleticism, academics and social life. It's everything Scott ever wanted, so why isn't he happy?

"It didn't pass me by. It landed on my face!"

That simple premise, penned by comic book writer Jeph Loeb (Commando) and Matthew Weisman (Commando), is performed brilliantly by Fox. Though in his mid-twenties at the time, his boyish looks pass for high school age, unlike his rival, Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold), who was twenty-seven going on forty-two. That's what made the 80's, and even current high school films, great, right? Inappropriately aged actors trying to pull off awkward, underdeveloped teenagers.

Speaking of developed, Boof (Susan Ursitti) was a Q-T! She had a kinda Phoebe Cates vibe working for her. Had Scott seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he wouldn't have paid ol' what's-her-face any attention.

Though he doesn't get around much now, James Hampton (Sling Blade), who plays Scott's dad Harold, was a wonderful That Guy of the time. At least, I thought of him as such even before that term was around. He provides excellent fatherly wisdom and even gets to paraphrase Stan Lee's famous "with great power comes great responsibility" - no doubt an homage from Loeb. Another nifty homage is the nod to Saturday Night Fever, though I don't recall any of my friends doing the "Big Bad Wolf" at our dances.

While I'm doling out shout-outs, a special nod goes to Tom Adcock and Jeff Glosser who, respectively, were the dance double and basketball double that helped make Wolf-Scott so friggin' cool!

Teen Wolf only hints at the growing distance between Wolf-Scott and his friend Lewis (Matt Adler, Dream a Little Dream) that may have made the story more well-rounded. However, adding in those scenes might have thrown off the pacing and it's hard to beat a movie that effectively hits its marks and rolls credits by the ninetieth minute.

A few things could have been better explained. For example, how could an exceptionally sucky basketball team pull out a win without their supernaturally-enhanced point guard? For me, it doesn't matter because Teen Wolf was during a simpler time, when PG movies could feature underage drinking and scenes of sexuality. Ah, those were the days.

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