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Because Lycanthropy Makes You Good at Sports.
When I sat down to review things for this Halloween season, I didn't expect to be writing about the Teen Wolf series. It just didn't occur to me. But when my friend brought over a DVD with lots of pubescent werewolves chasing after the hot girl on campus, something just clicked. Maybe it was how retarded the message of the film was. Maybe it was the fact that I was never good at sports. Most likely, it has something to do with the volume of chest hair that sprouted during my mid-teens. I'm not sure. What I do know is that you and I are going to have a quick look at the film released right after Back to the Future made its big splash. Hell, look at the poster to the left. Michael's name is ridiculously larger than the title of the movie and it even has the phrase "Back to the Future" right there. Like I said, I wasn't sure I should be reviewing this one. Comedies aren't something you should poke fun at. They're trying to be weird/funny/goofy and me making fun of them is one part kicking a cripple and two parts not getting the joke. Of course, Teen Wolf isn't a comedy. Well, it is in that it has one joke: Michael J. Fox is a werewolf who has to deal with teen issues. Beyond that, the rest of the film just runs with the premise and comes off as a teen coming-of-age drama. So let's look at the first part.
Michael J. Fox sucks at playing basketball. With a height of 5'3'', I'm not entirely surprised. Which sort of makes me point out something: This is the whitest basketball team I've ever seen. It's hard to say something like that and not sound a bit racist, but apparently Michael's character lives in "No Black People Allowed" Town. Oh wait. There is one Black character. Let me show you his big scene.
In the first scene we get to see the one black character knock Michael to the ground. Later we find out his name is Lemonade (which I don't know if that's racist or not....but I know I won't repeat it) when he shows up for another 3 seconds in the locker room. And then...he vanishes from the film. Apparently, black is the wrong color to be if you're knocking popular white boy to the ground. I'm joking of course, but you have to wonder what the director was thinking when he blocked the first scene.
Director: "Yeah, so we need someone to knock Michael down. Does anyone know someone who's black?"
Assistant Director: "Why don't we have his school rival knock him down? It'd make sense and set up their rivalry right away."
Director: "Nah, let's just get a big black guy, call him Lemonade, and have him knock Michael around a bit. After that give him his paycheck and get him off my set."
One of the supporting characters, this young girl, is the "true" love of our protagonist. Sure, he'll sleep with the head cheerleader, but eventually he'll come running back to his best friend/love interest in time for there to be a positive message. Oh, and she's named "Boof". Yes, that does mean "fart." I don't get it either.
The other supporting character is Stiles, the party animal. (He's the one on the left, not the gothy girl in the lingerie.) He pretty much plays the "zany sidekick" in this picture...obsessed with drugs, booze, and making lots of money. He's also really good at organizing party games.
...such as those that get 2 teenagers naked, tied up, and covered in whip cream while being watched by 30 of their classmates. Man, did I ever go to the wrong parties in High School.
Since I'm getting all the tangents out of the way, I should also like to point out the "van surfing" that happens in this film. Nothing says, "I'm young and crazy" quite like doing young and crazy things. Ah, to live in simpler times. I'm really curious to know how many people tried this out after they saw teenagers having the time of their lives while standing on a moving vehicle. For some reason, I'm reminded of the football movie "The Program" which featured the characters lying down on the highway and letting cars pass over them. Some kids tried it in real life and....it went poorly. So poorly there were lawsuits and the scene was removed. It does make me wonder if something like this would fly these days. I'd like to pretend it would.
So Michael is slowly going beasty on us. He's getting weird hair growing on his body and when a clerk doesn't give him what he wants, this happens:
So he sucks at Sports, is in love with a girl who won't talk to him, and he's really unpopular. I wonder what could change everything?
Lycanthropy: It does a body good.
Not everyone knows this, but werewolves are really good at sports. And that's the main premise of this movie. He turns into a werewolf, the basketball teams starts winning games, and all of a sudden everyone likes him. This of course explains why every werewolf-hunter out there originally started off as a pissed-off sports fan. Not that there are any werewolf hunters in the movie. This film gets classified as a comedy/fantasy because everyone just accepts that Michael is a werewolf. They're cool with it. There's not reference to the mythos surrounding lycanthropy...this isn't a horror film. Werewolves are really good at sports and if you're good at sports you're going to be super-popular.
And Teen Wolf (and Teen Wolf Too) ARE movies about sports. Sure, there's drama in there but the vehicle for the story is the high school basketball team's rise to victory in the state championship. There's a LOT of basketball footage and a lot of slow motion balls bouncing off the rim. That's not a euphemism and you know it. Back to lycanthropy and it's effect on the teen demographic.
And thus, the moral of the story gets rammed down our throats for the next forty-five minutes. Werewolf-Michael has all sorts of new friends, that hot girlfriend he always wanted, and he's damn happy. But his family and that girl named Fart (I mean Boof) keep telling him to be himself. Plus the rest of the basketball team is unhappy with him because he was too good at the game and they couldn't score any points. Once Mikey gets the message, he plays the final game as a regular human, showing that just being ordinary is fine. I mean "being yourself." They win, proving Michael didn't have to be a werewolf to be a success. At first glance it's a weird moral: victory is sweeter if you don't have an advantage. With a little introspection though, the real moral might be: "Hey Kids, it's perfectly alright to be average. Not everyone is special." That's cynical as hell, but there's definitely a "you don't have to be a nonconformist" subtext that's hard to ignore. Dear Lord, I just used the word subtext in a movie review of Teen Wolf. We need to speed this up.
Teen Wolf: The Animated Series
Launched just after the original movie, this is the Teen Wolf that I'm most familiar with. Not because the cartoon was great (it wasn't, trust me) but because I was six at the time and cartoons were just starting to be my very best friend in the world. The cartoon is based on the movie...no, that's a lie. The cartoon is based on the premise of the movie, but seems to have been written by someone who never actually saw the damn movie. Michael (the character's name was Scott Howard) still turns into a werewolf from time to time but now it's a big fat dirty secret. Instead of being cool because he's a werewolf he has to hide his hairy shame. Sort of like how us guys had to make sure our crotches were covered when high octane puberty hit and our minds wandered to what our teacher might look like in leather punishment panties.
Sorry, lost my train of thought. Oh, the crappy cartoon. The other big difference from the movie is the addition of a bunch of characters. Stiles and Flatulence are there, but so are Scott Howard's werewolf grandparents and his little sister who isn't a werewolf but she likes to pretend. The cartoon isn't interesting at all now that I watch it again (episodes on YouTube...Teen Wolf the cartoon hasn't been officially released in a long, long time which might tell you something) but I see why they added the extra characters. You really can only tolerate teen angst and wolfen puberty for so long before you need to have an elderly werewolf in suspenders chase a cat across the screen.
All you really need to know is there was indeed a cartoon based on Teen Wolf that was made very quickly (released the same year as the original movie) that has very little to do with what the heck it was based on. So, a year later they went back to their roots.
And made the same damn movie. Again.
Teen Wolf Too (yeah, the title annoys me too) is the sequel that was meant to star Michael J. Fox depicting his werewolf teenager during his first semester at Hamilton University. Mr. Fox had better things to do, such as make the film "The Secret of my Succe$s" and "The Light of Day". (Stupid Trivia: The movie "Light of Day" was written and directed by Paul Schrader. Despite being known these days as the guy behind the crappy Exorcist prequel, back in the day he was THE MAN. The wrote Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, and a great film about the real-life Mishima, who might be the world's coolest homosexual author/terrorist. So he asked Bruce Springsteen to write a song called "Born in the U.S.A.", which was, at the time, the name of his movie. Bruce wrote the damn thing and made waaaaaay too much money from it to hand it over for the movie, so he wrote a song called "Light of Day" and Paul changed the name of the movie.) You might notice how I'm NOT talking about the Teen Wolf sequel right now. There's a reason.
It is pretty much LITERALLY the same movie as Teen Wolf. This one stars Michael's cousin, played by Jason Bateman...best known for being on that show "Arrested Development" (Not to be confused with the band of the same name). Jason is dropped off at the college by his uncle, who is the same werewolf dad from the first film. Jason doesn't know why his werewolf uncle has such an interest in him, which is pretty amusing. Let me share a bit of dialogue from the very beginning.
Dad from First Movie: So you'll let me know if you have any occurrences of our "family problem", right?
Jason: I don't have lycanthropy, and neither do my parents.
Dad: Well, it's been known to skip one generation. Your grandfather was one of us so....
Jason: Look, I already told you that neither of my parents turn into wolfmen. Which means that I won't either. Shut the hell up.
Dad: You do know what "skip one generation" means, right?
Jason: Blah blah blah I'm not listening I'm not listening.
The plot here is that Jason got a boxing scholarship to Hamilton. Which is weird because he doesn't box and is pretty much a scrawny bastard of a teener. Turns out the Coach from the first movie is now the boxing coach and suggested that the Dean give Jason the scholarship because he might turn into a werewolf, which are invariably good at sports. By the by, despite returning characters, very few of them are played by the same actors. They're pulling a massive Dumbledore and, well, that's a sign of a bad sequel. At least when it happened in Harry Potter we knew it was because the original actor died. When the original actors are elsewhere appearing in better films, it doesn't make this film look any better.
Jason is indeed a boxing werewolf. And suddenly he's super-popular. Instead of getting one hot girl, he's having regular threesomes with a couple of college bimbos. He's also neglecting his studies, much to the dismay of his intelligent sort-of love interest (not to be confused with the boob sandwich mentioned earlier) and his biology teacher. The thing is, once he's a werewolf we, the audience, start watching what seems like a twenty minute montage. It's classic 80's crap, but it does have two highlights that I NEED to share.
College werewolf playing frisbee.
College Werewolf singing "Do you Love me (now that I can Dance)?" complete with back-up singers/dancers. They pretty much play the whole song while he lip synchs the words...and everyone dances. As frontal lobe-demolishing as this is, it does bring up a valid improvement from the original: The Music. The original Teen Wolf had a lot of weird country and folk songs in it that were made specifically for the movie. The sequel? The sequel has multiple songs by Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo as well as the song "Send me an Angel" by Real Life. If you're into the Goth scene, chances are you've probably heard that last one in the past week. Because it's one of those "ALL GOTH KIDS MUST DANCE" things that go down whenever it plays at a club. Sort of like that Concrete Blonde song...but I digress.
Oh and please note the black girl dancing in the background. If we asked the director what her name was, I'd like to think it wasn't Lemonade. I'd like to think that. Where the heck were all the black people in the 1980's?
In the original film, the principal was going to expel Michael until his werewolf father stepped in and scared the principal into changing his mind. When Jason decides to "be himself" (yes, just like the last movie), the Dean threatens to expel him exactly the same way. To spice things up, Jason's biology teacher makes her eyes glow and, well, does the same damn thing the dad did in the first movie. The only new thing? As she walks away she has...a tail? Wait, does that mean that Michael, Jason, and his werewolf father/uncle also have tails? If so, where the hell are they sticking them? Whatever the answer is, I'm sure it's uncomfortable.
And Jason wins the boxing championship. Not by being special and different but by being ordinary and just like everyone else. The sequel is really a repackaged original made to cash in on the still memorable success of the original Teen Wolf. There's not much else to say about it. In fact, I'm done.
Teen Wolf is worth watching as a time capsule alone. From the fashion to the music (well, in the sequel at least) to the director's decision to use montages like crazy, it's pretty amusing. It's a solid entry into the world of socially acceptable lycanthropy, through Lord knows if that's a good thing. What I do know is a very good thing is that I've talked this much about Michael J. Fox and haven't made a Parkinson's joke. Rock on, Teen Wolf and if you don't mind me giving a bit of advice:
Being average and ordinary is for suckers who can't help it. Now go out and maul some teenagers.
Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.
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