I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Teen Wolf

tn_teenwolfTEEN WOLF is the story of a teen who turns into a wolf. But he looks more like those cavemen from the commercials, or the “dog-faced boy” from the cover of that old video about the different “freaks” (see diagram).

Michael J. Fox (CLASS OF 1989) plays Scott Howard, a weiner who has the hots for some bitch who hates him and who doesn’t notice that his female best friend adores him. To be fair her name is Boof so you can see why he wouldn’t take her that seriously, but still. One day when he gets a freaksboner it brings out the changes in his body and then when there’s a full moon he turns into a wolf. So his dad reveals to him that he also is a wolf, an Adult Wolf, because it’s just this harmless thing that runs in the family.

That doesn’t comfort Scott. He’s real worried and embarrassed, but then he gets upset during a basketball game and wolfs out, and it makes him really good. Ain’t no rule says a werewolf can’t play basketball.

Being good at sports is the best thing anybody could do, so everybody accepts this wolf thing and thinks he’s cool now. They lift him up like a champion, bring him to the diner, chant his name. People cheer him on wherever he goes, they high five him. Being a teen wolf seems very similar to being Arsenio Hall. Also there’s a part where he spontaneously starts breakdancing in the hallway at school.

mp_teenwolfIt’s implied that he has some kind of pheremones or something that cause some kind of an animal magnetism with the ladies. Before long he’s on the floor of the dressing room having unprotected sex with the girl from the school play who wouldn’t talk to him before. You know how girls love fuckin wolves. We’ve all seen it. Come on man, I’m just saying what everybody’s thinkin. You think that dog boy on the front of the video was lonely? No way. These are the facts.

TEEN WOLF immediately abandons any traditional elements of a werewolf movie: no talk of full moons, silver bullets, infectious werewolf bites or gypsy curses. No attempts to cure himself, no worry about losing control and killing somebody, or waking up naked with goat intestines on his breath. It doesn’t even deal with him being an outcast. Take out the “wolf” part and you have the typical ’80s teen story of a nerd becoming popular and then getting full of himself and becoming a jerk, and then at the end he realizes he should be true to himself so he stops turning into a wolf, becomes less popular, but manages to still win the basketball game and fall in love with the best friend. Phew.

But is that really being true to himself? I don’t think so, because the wolf is part of him, it’s part of his family heritage. His dad is proud of being a wolf. And it’s pretty amazing that in this small town the people are not only accepting of a teen wolf, but love him and buy t-shirts promoting him. Maybe that’s condescending, like suburban white kids mimicking L.A. gang culture, but they mean well, I would say it is very liberal for a small town. But the dad didn’t know that, so imagine all the torment he must’ve had, hiding this secret all these years, even from his own son. Scott has actually done a great thing by showing his dad that he can be open about being a werewolf. But then he shits all over that by deciding he doesn’t want “the wolf” and refusing to use it. Suppressing it.

Plus there’s the whole issue of his mom, which isn’t really dealt with. His mom is dead, we don’t know why, but at one point the bad guy (one of the few people in town who hates teen wolves) says “I’ve handled your kind before. Your mama used to steal chickens out of the backyard until I blew her head off with a shotgun.” I mean, if that’s supposed to be a “yo momma” joke it’s a pretty weird one. I think he might be telling the truth. On the other hand, dealing with a teen wolf for the first time opens up weird new “yo momma” possibilities and he might just be getting used to that, feeling his way around with this your-mom-eating-my-chickens concept, and it just didn’t come off right maybe. It’s hard to say. But if I had to guess I’d say this really is the guy who murdered Scott’s mom in cold blood and is proud of it and just revealed it and bragged about it. So I really hope Scott wins the basketball game, that would even things out a bit, wouldn’t it?

And his friend Lewis – this is a weird one, but if you’ve seen the movie maybe you can explain it to me. He has two guys he hangs out with at the beginning, Stiles and Lewis. Lewis doesn’t talk much, and then when Scott becomes a teen wolf Lewis looks upset, then doesn’t hang out with them anymore. Scott asks Stiles why and Stiles changes the subject. What’s the deal? Is Lewis lupophobic? Did he actually/also have chickens stolen by Scott’s mom and is just now putting two and two together? Is he a Teen Chicken? It’s never addressed. All left up for poetic interpretation, I guess.

Scott has another friend named “Chubby,” played by Mark Holton (Francis from PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE). It seems mean that his name is Chubby, but don’t worry, his friends just call him “Chub” for short. So even though they’re constantly reminding him he’s a fatass at least it’s a shortened name, that means it’s affectionate.

I also want to bring up this character Stiles. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around him. It seems like he’s constantly trying to hustle everybody and that you’re supposed to find that charming. He’s like this kind of obnoxious Jeremy Piven/door-to-door salesman type who wears t-shirts with wacky sayings and goes through a bunch of trouble to try to get a keg to bring to a party, so he can be cool. When he gets there nobody’s impressed because there are a bunch of kegs already there. But then all the sudden it doesn’t matter because he’s basically the host of the party, and everyone watches him as he jokes around and presents a series of makeout games for everybody to play. I guess he’s kind of a Ferris Bueller type of kid who can do anything so he creates a line of Teen Wolf merchandise, paints a wolf logo on the side of a delivery truck and enjoys a hobby of risking death or paralysis by moronically “surfing” on top of his moving vehicle while playing Beach Boys songs loudly on the stereo. I don’t think we’ll be seeing him alive at the high school reunion.

I should give credit where credit is due: there were two lines that intentionally made me laugh. One of them was from the Dad Wolf:

Teen Wolf: I was with Stiles this afternoon.
Dad: I know.
Teen Wolf: You saw?
Dad: Yeah, I saw, unless that was another werewolf doing a handstand on top of Stiles’ wolfmobile and making a fool of himself.

So there’s a couple small laughs. But I have to warn you, this movie is NOT scary. It just doesn’t have any atmosphere, no tension. It doesn’t take the mythology seriously enough for there to be anything at stake as far as– Nah, just jerkin your chain, obviously it’s not supposed to be a horror movie. But I think it’s funny that the music on the opening credits do sound like it’s trying to be scary.

It’s actually kind of a slipup as far as a high concept goes – the title TEEN WOLF just makes it sound like an update of I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. It only communicates the concept of a teenage werewolf. But in reality the hook here is not that he’s a teen, it’s that he plays basketball. What I’m saying is that it should be called WEREHOOPS.

Years ago a buddy told me that TEEN WOLF movie was about puberty. There’s obviously a parallel there, he’s a squeaky-voiced kid in high school whose body goes through changes and it makes him more aggressive and successful with girls. In fact, when he tries to talk to the coach about what’s happening to him the coach thinks that’s what he’s talking about, late puberty. But it doesn’t hold up as a metaphor because why would he be the only one? Why would it make him special? Why would the whole school worship him, just for growing some pubes?

There’s another hint when he decides to come out of the closet to Stiles:

Teen Wolf: Stiles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard, but…
Stiles: Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.
Teen Wolf: I’m not a fag. I’m… a werewolf.

As many things haven’t changed since 1985 at least that one did. I don’t think you’d see somebody talking like that in a movie now. Like no no, jesus no, I’m not gay! Nothing weird like that. Don’t be silly. I just have the power to turn into a basketball playing wolfman. Gay! I can’t believe you thought that. No way.

But it does kind of bring to mind that parallel, and I had already thought of it anyway. He’s got this secret that he’s at first scared of and ashamed by, but he can’t help it. And he’s afraid to tell his best friend. But of course that analogy doesn’t hold up either because being gay doesn’t pass down from your parents. Or turn you instantly into the most popular kid in school. Or make you good at basketball.

Wait a minute, could this be another uncomfortable race comedy like SOUL MAN? Like being a werewolf symbolizes that he has some African ancestry? Come to think of it the plot is somewhat similar, down to the girl using him for sex because of his fake blackness/teen wolf powers… but no, I don’t think that works either.

Okay, as far as I can tell TEEN WOLF is not about anything, I guess that’s not a crime. It is weird thought because it really seems like a story that lends itself to some subtext. It seems like an opportunity to say something about what it’s like to be that age. But really it’s just about wolves being good at basketball. Oh well.

The director is Rod Daniel (K-9, HOME ALONE 4) and the script was by Joseph Loeb III and Matthew Weisman. They also wrote the much better COMMANDO, and Loeb changed his name to Jeph Loeb and writes comics books now. I’m not sure if he got kicked out of movies or something, but that’s where he is now.

Of course, this was followed by a sequel called TEEN WOLF TOO which I will be reviewing soon. And apparently they’re working on turning it into a TV series for MTV. If that doesn’t work out (and let’s face it, it won’t) I think they should consider a series of DTV children’s movie spin-offs called FURBALLS, about soccer playing werewolf cubs.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009 at 12:09 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

46 Responses to “Teen Wolf”

  1. It’s been a while since I saw the two Teen Wolf movies, but I have to watch them again soon (working on something…). It’s just weird that the only thing I remember about part 1 was the scene with the handstand on the wolfmobile, while I remember part 2, uhm, part too much better. Although I doubt that it’s really the more memorable of the two.

  2. Weird. I just watched this for the first time in years because I was emailed the totally kickawesome theme song by the director of Murder Loves Killers Too (long story) and I was struck by how fucked up the movie’s message is: Hide your light under a bushel, kids. Do not use your natural gifts to excel, because your peers will only resent you for it. Blend in and embrace mediocrity. It’s for the good of the team.

  3. It’s kind of the opposite of THE INCREDIBLES actually, now that you mention it. The happy ending of TEEN WOLF is the depressing beginning of THE INCREDIBLES.

  4. What’s funny is that anecdote Fox once told of how while making TEEN WOLF in some neighborhood, another film crew of another picture was also working down the block. That other movie was BACK TO THE FUTURE.

    That doesn’t exactly happen much to movie actors, no?

  5. Jeph Loeb’s comic career has had it’s ups and downs. Basically, his comics are either incredibly well written, mature and thoughtful or they’re complete shit. I don’t think he’s ever written an “okay” comic. He also wrote a lot of Heroes and Smallville, two tv shows I’ve never much cared for.

  6. Agree about the bizarrely fucked up message the film provides. It’s weird that it came out in the 80s with vamp films like The Lost Boys and Near Dark because it seems to play out the idea of being a werewolf completely wrong. Whereas the vamp films played up the idea of vampires as outsiders, teenwolf plays it out like being a werewolf would make you super popular. It just seems the entirely wrong subtext.

    And very unbelievable – the teenager who is ‘different’ is heralded as a hero by the school? Rather than being further shunned? I’d suggest it’s wish fulfilment on behalf of the writer but then the ending says don’t be different or stand out so i’m not sure what it’s trying to say.

    So yeah Vern, it is a film kind of about nothing and yet with entirely screwed up morality, which in some ways makes it bizarrely interesting. Though certainly not good.

  7. Well, I think Teen Wolf would have turned out very differently if he used his wolf powers to excel at, say, sculpture or computer programming. I don’t know where the movie was supposed to take place, but it seemed like the Midwest, where I hear high school athletics are the most powerful force in existence. Anything that helps them win ballgames is alright by them, no matter how furry it is.

  8. It was the 80’s and mediocrity and conformity were popular then. Those things and money. And shoulder pads. Even the subcultures had standards that absolutely had to be conformed to. If you went around showing your werewolf and having mad basketball skills of COURSE you were gonna get your comeuppance and learn to suppress your gifts and blend in, I mean who does that wolf think he is? He think he’s better than PROPER people? Different and better were simply not to be tolerated.

  9. Anyone remember the crappy cartoon version of Teenwolf? He was still keeping the werewolf thing hid from everybody but Stiles and Boof. His grandparents lived with him, and they were always “wolfed” out. Typical 80’s cartoon but I remember digging it when I was just a kid…

  10. What would a remake of this movie look like? I didn’t really like this movie, but you have to admire the unblinking level of cheese that being a Michael Fox movie from the ’80’s allows it to have. Nowadays, there’s no way in hell this is a comedy, they’d make it a ‘serious’ movie and the only jokes would be some buff bully says ‘Pussy’ and ‘faggot’ a bunch of times, and maybe there’d be a wacky black guy and some people getting hit in the nuts. There would of course be a bunch of talk about ‘legends’ and ‘rules’ that would get broken willy-nilly as the movie went on. Come to think of it, it’d have to be Platinum Dunes, which means that every guy would have tight shirts showing off their pecs and all the girls would be wearing belly shirts and ass-hugging jeans. The nerdy characters would look and dress exactly like everyone else, only they’d wear glasses. Hmm…

  11. oh wow—yeah i remember the cartoon.

  12. Jeph Loeb’s most current work in comics and television has really gone downhill, but it’s really not his fault, since his son recently died. So I mostly just feel bad for him.

  13. Speaking of old Michael J. Fox movies, did anyone else notice that there’s practically a beat-for-beat remake of the Walking On Sunshine montage from The Secret of My Success in American Psycho? I happened to watch them both in one night once and it was fucking CREEPY.

  14. Dear God I love this movie, and this review makes it all that much better. WEREHOOPS is hysterical. And I would love to know what the other line was that made you laugh.

  15. You guys remember that line where Stiles mentions that the shop teacher got his dick stuck in a vacuum cleaner? Funny urine, guys.

  16. I think we can all also agree that we all need WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, DICKNOSE? T-shirts.

  17. ya’ll know this movie a little too well

  18. I want to see FURBALLS now!!
    Vern, if you don’t have an agent for TV shenanigans, get one now, this concept is gold!

  19. Please tell me you’ll be reviewing the Look Who’s talking series next.

  20. To Twynklebat:

    Fuck you, bro. Teen Wolf is so radical, man.

    To Mr. Majestyk:

    Stiles is sooooo naked, man.

  21. Patrick Swayze is dead guys.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8256033.stm

    Shit that’s crazy, I was downloading Road House literally an hour ago. Cancer sucks dudes.

  22. Most of you probably saw this already but just to share the magic… here’s the trailer for MJ’s “THIS IS IT” movie/concert thingmie.

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42349

  23. I always saw the Wolf as a metaphor for steroids. The Wolf made him good at sports. The Wolf made him popular. The Wolf even gave him Roid Rage during the dance when he tore that guy’s shirt. Then at the end he had to prove to himself that he didn’t need the Wolf to win the Big Game. That’s just me.

  24. Yeah, I’m gonna go with steroids. We have a winner in the Name That Werewolf Metaphor sweepstakes.

  25. A few thoughts.

    One: I love Teen Wolf. It’s a million times better than a teen comedy about a kid who turns into a basketball-playing werewolf has any right to be. Mostly because of Michael J. Fox. Remember how before Michael Jackson died, Vern was the only one singing his praises? (Him and Michel Gondry?) That’s me and Michael J. Fox. We all take him for granted now but seriously, guys, remember the 80’s? I rest my case.

    Two: Teen Wolf Too is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Vern, I think when you watch it you’ll gain a new appreciation for everything Teen Wolf did right.

    Three: GoodBadGroovy – I’m not sure there can be a “wrong” subtext, if the filmmakers were deliberately trying to defy expectations. If he had turned into a werewolf and become a total outcast, that would have been a pretty boring and obvious movie, in my opinion. Him becoming a celebrated basketball star is a great “WTF” moment precisely because it’s not what you’d expect. In retrospect we might forget that because we’ve all seen Teen Wolf before, but imagine you’re an 80’s kid seeing it for the first time. It’s pretty funny.

    Four: Sucks about Swayze.

  26. Steroids – that works! I like it.

  27. after i read this review i sat there thinking about what metaphor would work and came up with nothing. good job on the steroids jack, well played.

  28. When I was a small child, I would sit inside on a boring day and watch TEEN WOLF over and over again, rewinding the VHS as soon as it was over and starting again from the beginning. I don’t know why. I still end up watching it once every year or 2, and I can still quote about 70% of the movie as I watch it.

  29. No I think your first instinct that this is about boners and manhood is correct. Because you really can’t just walk around with a big ol’ boner all the time if you want to be taken seriously.

  30. Speak for yourself.

  31. Vern – With Swayze’s passing…you might need to review STEEL DAWN in his honor.

    What, not ROADHOUSE? Sweeerve!

    RED DAWN would also suffice. Wolverines!

  32. this movie has a special place in my heart, since i was about 8 when it came out, and i saw it literally a hundred times on video. i definitely knew the entire movie by heart. so it’s hard for me to view it objectively. while i can realize intellectually that it’s a pretty crappy picture, even when i watch it now it holds a lot of nostalgic charm for me.

    and i think that while the people who made it didn’t really have a clear idea what subtext they were going for was or what the “message” was, it seems clear to me that there is something going on there with the horrors of puberty. the first scene at the party, it seems like scott is kinda freaked out by all the older kids getting wasted and making out and stuff. when he gets paired up with boof and they are forced to make out in the closet, he is clearly uncomfortable with it. he also finds a strange hair on his chest at one point early on (it’s a werewolf hair, but the parrallel is intentional). this is especially funny because of michael j. fox’s smooth as a baby’s bum body, as is his perpetually pubescent squeaky voice.

    also, i wanted to point out two quirky little character performances in this movie. the coach and the theater director. both these guys have small parts, but they play them in this bizarre (for this kind of movie) way, and they are both really funny! these weird kind of side performances that pop up every now and then are one of the things i love about “cheesy” 80’s movirs.

  33. The other line that made me laugh was when the coach offered his advice to Scott and it included “never gamble with a card player who has a city as his first name.” This was actually kind of clever because even as careless as the coach had been depicted up to that point I think most movies would have a serious moment there were he actually does give the kid good advice about not being such an asshole. But this guy just gives him a bunch of gibberish exactly when he needs advice the most.

  34. I always hated Teen Wolf. But The Long Halloween is pretty cool, so good for Joseph Loeb III.

  35. Watching and reviewing Teenwolf too would be a special type of insanity. Good luck. Hopefully you’ll return with your sanity intact after it.

  36. Hey Vern, remember when this movie got a second round of notoriety from the guy exposing himself in the bleachers during the end credits? It was nowhere near the level of the “Three Men and a Baby” ghost, but it was definitely a big “you gotta rent it again and see it” thing for a while.

  37. I’d so totally pay to see TEEN CHICKEN.

    Also Vern: I’d be curious to see how you compare the interpretations of the wolf character by Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman. I think time has proven Bateman to be the better actor, but, as I remember, he began his career as a Fox wannabe.

  38. I’ll always remember the fantastic “Win In The End” song which plays during the final game, a great example of music narrating what’s happening on screen in a ‘Montage’ Team America style. Also that the guy at the dance / prom has a very apt werewolf song to play. I suppose he gets this a lot.

    Oh and, as Neal2Zod said, the guy with his dick out at the end. One of those things nobody believes when you tell them about it, then sure enough…

  39. My God, they’re really remaking this into an MTV Twilight knock off teen show? You know how some bad ideas are so bad that you have to watch just to see how much of a train wreck it is? This is not one of those, it’s just a plain old bad idea.

  40. I think Teen Wolf 2 has the longest montage sequence I have ever seen. The middle portion of the movie is almost entirely dialogue free. It’s weird because it kind of sneaks up on you, it took me a while to realize nobody had spoken in the last twenty minutes. Very strange.

  41. That’s how they managed to get around the dreaded Part Where It Drags In The Middle. It’s the only part of Teen Wolf Also that’s at all innovative.

  42. “I want a case of beer”

    Only thing I remember about this one.

  43. GRIM GRINNING CHRIS

    September 15th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Actually, Mike… It’s “Give me… a keg… of beer… … and these.” ;)

  44. yeah, this movie is a strange one

  45. A comedy group placed themselves into teen wolf and it turned out pretty great.
    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/1e5af33246/teen-wolf-from-summeroftears

  46. give me…a keg…..of beer.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>