Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 1, 2011)
When Back to the Future became the biggest hit of 1985, Michael J. Fox leapt to the level of “A”-list actor and got to ponder what his follow-up film would be. Despite his new super-stardom, Fox continued his role on TV’s Family Ties and wouldn’t perform in a post-Future movie until 1987.
The public perception of Fox’s career differs, though, as he starred in a big-screen release less than two months after Future hit. Teen Wolf came out toward the end of summer 1985 and seemed to represent Fox’s follow-up to Future.
Nope. Fox actually shot Wolf before he acted in Future; it simply didn’t make it to screens first. It’s unclear what fate Wolf would’ve endured without the success of Future; it might’ve stayed unreleased theatrically or just been dumped to cable.
But with Fox the new It Boy, Wolf got rushed onto screens and earned decent bucks. Fox probably wasn’t too wild to have it perceived as his follow-up to Future, but them’s the breaks!
I could understand any potential reluctance on Fox’s part, as Teen Wolf offers pretty banal 80s teen comedy. High school student Scott Howard (Fox) finds himself going through changes. He growls at basketball opponents, can hear dog whistles, and discovers odd hair growth across his body.
It turns out that Scott has werewolf in him, and this emerges as he matures. Scott freaks out about this at first – duh! – but learns to embrace his lupine side. He becomes a superstar basketball player and the most popular kid in school. Scott lets this go to his head, so while he bags the girl of his dreams (Lorie Griffin), he also threatens to lose sight of who he really is, as “The Wolf” takes over.
As I watched Wolf, I tried to put myself back into the 1985 mindset and appreciate it for what it was in that era. I couldn’t do it – or I couldn’t do it enough to figure out what made this movie a minor hit back then.
Heck, I’m amazed that Wolf didn’t undo all the good will Future engendered for Fox. Something this bad should’ve been a career killer, but I guess Fox was Teflon for a while there; if a dud like Wolf couldn’t derail his trajectory, I don’t know what could.
Essentially a more comedic riff on 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf, this one could’ve been decent at the very least. Though the theme isn’t particularly original or exciting, it boasted enough potential to make it fun. How could a movie about a teen werewolf be so thoroughly dull and forgettable?
I don’t know, but Wolf fails in most possible ways. Back in his day, Fox boasted ample charisma, but he looks bored here. He essentially plays the part on cruise control and appears to want to distance himself from the awful script.
Other cast members try harder, but they don’t do any better. Scott’s buddy Stiles (Jerry Levine) may be the most obnoxious personality of 80s teen movies, and you won’t find a more self-conscious attempt of an attempt to create a break-out character; he exists just for catchphrases and wackiness, and he always feels phony and annoying.
The love triangle among Scott, blonde babe Pamela (Griffin) and Scott’s lifelong pal Boof (Susan Ursitti) fails to ignite any sparks, largely because it’s so transparent and predictable. Is there ever any doubt who’ll win? No, and these scenes are just there to occupy space.
Actually, the whole movie feels like filler. We get about 10 minutes of plot and 80 minutes of musical montages and “party hearty” hijinks – or at least that’s how it feels. Outside of some predictable plot developments, not much happens here; how a movie about a teenage werewolf could be so uneventful befuddles me.
I also can’t figure out how a 90-minute movie can seem longer than an uncut version of War and Peace, but Teen Wolf manages to make time stand still. If Michael J. Fox never became a mega-star for Back to the Future, Teen Wolf wouldn’t have found any kind of audience. And that would’ve been the fate this stale flick deserved.