Okay, so I have a rule that any movie, no matter how flawed it may be, gets a Four Star review if I’ve seen it more than ten times. When I was a kid, I used to rent Teen Wolf like crazy (along with Invisible Kid… man THAT needs to be on DVD ASAP). Almost a quarter of a century later, I picked it up on DVD for $5 and it dawned on me that I had to have seen this movie AT LEAST ten times; hence Four Stars.
Basically, the whole movie is an 80’s updating of Michael Landon’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf, except that the Teen Wolf doesn’t kill anybody. Scott (Michael J. Fox) is just a regular teen who feels awkward because he can’t play basketball very well and the hottest girl in town won’t give him the time of day. That all changes when he becomes a werewolf. Suddenly, he’s the most popular kid in school and doing slam dunks like Wilt the Stilt. (Except with a lot more hair.) Eventually though, he learns that “being himself” is more important than being an animal.
Werewolves were always my favorite monster growing up and Family Ties was my favorite TV show, so it’s only a natural that I’d love this movie as a kid. As an adult, I still like it a lot, even though the predictable third act is rife with tired sport clichés and the gratuitous “be yourself” message is irksome. The make-up is also pretty terrible (the werewolf looks like a hippie version of Chewbacca).
Fox’s enormous likeability carries the movie a long way and he delivers one of his all time best performances. Also standing out from rest of the (wolf) pack is Jerry (Iron Eagle) Levine as Stiles. Levine has an endearing chemistry with Fox and turns in one of the best teen performances of the 80’s. (I remember watching this when I was a kid and wanting to grow up to be like Stiles.) The “urban surfing” scenes are great and are some of the coolest stuff my seven year old eyes had seen on film.
Comparing Teen Wolf to that OTHER 1985 Michael J. Fox movie is a little unfair. (The movie’s best joke is that the 5’ 4” Fox is on the basketball team.) Sure, Back to the Future is hands down a much better flick and is wholly deserving of it’s Four Star status, but I’ve easily seen Teen Wolf twice as many times as that movie; so that says something about it’s enduring longevity.
Followed by a cool Saturday morning cartoon and a pitiful 1987 sequel. Screenwriters Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman also wrote Commando the same year. (PS: Look fast for the guy who flashes the camera at the very end of the movie.)