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Weird Science

August 2, 1985

I’m no expert on the films of John Hughes, but I’ve seen enough to know WEIRD SCIENCE (which he wrote and directed) is pretty different from the other ones. It’s still a teen movie, like he was known for at the time, but it’s his only foray into science fiction unless you count his screenplay for JUST VISITING (the 2001 flop remake of LES VISITEURS) for involving time travel.

It feels a little off to call WEIRD SCIENCE sci-fi though. It’s more like computer magical realism, I think. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Much like EXPLORERS, we have two oft-bullied nerds, the main character Gary (Anthony Michael Hall, following SIX PACK, VACATION, SIXTEEN CANDLES and THE BREAKFAST CLUB) and computer genius best friend Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, HOW TO BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS, DANIEL, THE WILD LIFE). Going by the actors’ ages, Gary and Wyatt are about 2 or 3 years too old to be Explorers or Goonies. So they’re different in that they do not dream of adventure; they are entirely consumed by horniness. And the girls they like to stare at in school ignore them, so Gary’s big idea is to make a woman. He’s inspired by seeing BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN on TV (colorized! what the fuck!?) and figures his smart friend should be able to do something like that with his fancy computer machine.

No problem, right? Gary doesn’t seem to necessarily have any nerd skills himself, he’s just the guy who tells his friend “Hey, do this clearly impossible thing I want and have not even thought through at all because I’m too stupid to understand that it makes no sense,” and Wyatt is the one who’s like, “I don’t know, something like that is very… I would have to – [typity typity]. Hmm, well, I suppose if I [something something axis binary blah blah etc.] – ah ha! We did it!”

I’m almost positive Gary grew up to be some piece of shit CEO who does absolutely nothing, but takes all the credit because he’s an “idea guy.”

I love movie posters that have a back-of-the-paperback amount of explanation.

EXPLORERS also had a computer genius kid who could perform actual miracles in his bedroom, but they explained some of it by having aliens implant circuit designs in their dreams. Hughes doesn’t have that excuse and wisely chooses to forgo believability entirely. They scan in a bunch of pictures from magazines, attach wires to a Barbie doll, and connect to a Pentagon database. Scanning in a picture of Albert Einstein makes her smart, David Lee Roth gives her swagger. It makes no sense, but the great title song by Oingo Boingo gets you hyped up to just go with it. (The actual score by Ira Newborn [SIXTEEN CANDLES, INTO THE NIGHT] is less danceable.)

Their experiment causes power surges and craziness and of course it seems like it didn’t work, but then the woman of their wet dreams (Kelly LeBrock, who had made her debut in THE WOMAN IN RED a year earlier) walks in in a cut off sweatshirt and panties. Before they even name her (Lisa) she invites them to shower with her.

I think we can all agree that in 2020 there probly wouldn’t be a PG-13 teen movie that lets you think “Oh, these two scrawny pals created an adult woman to double team, good for them.” ’85 was different in that sense. It’s a bluff, though. They stand nervously behind her trying to remain calm until the reveal that they were too scared to take off their pants.

Lisa has magic powers – she creates a Cadillac, clothes for herself and the boys, fake IDs and whatever else she needs. For a while I thought she was kind of a Mary Poppins figure – she comes into their life allegedly to be their sexbot or whatever, but kind of acts like their cool mom, pushes them to try new things, teaches them life lessons and then is sad to know she has to leave them and move on. But she’s also a Cat in the Hat figure, a trickster who introduces chaos to their lives, wrecks the house in a fun way, then fixes things and goes away.

She brings them on silly adventures, helping them impress people by pretending to be their girlfriend. One way she challenges them is by bringing them to a bar called Kandy Bar that they think is scary, possibly because of the largely Black clientele. The one thing in the movie that has aged to be more Problematic™than the sexual politics is the very long joke about Gary getting drunk and befriending a bunch of older Black men by wearing a “pimp hat” and talking to them in a “Black voice” (or “speaking jive” in the AIRPLANE! parlance). If Gary really did grow up to be a CEO I have a theory about what he’ll be forced to resign over.

Later one of these new friends works bar for the boys’ party (why not just be a guest?) and a white character we don’t like tries to converse with him by saying, “Hey, brother. What’s happenin, my main man?” At that point Hughes seems to recognize that this sort of white man code switching is embarrassing.

A more surprising thing about the Kandy Bar scene is the prominent placement of b-action icon Steve James as an extra! He’s not credited, he’s just one of the guys sitting there listening, but he’s right next to Gary. Has his hand on his shoulder, even.

My guess is he got invited by Judie Aronson, his co-star in AMERICAN NINJA, which was released later in the same month. Here Aronson (FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER) plays Hilly, who along with her friend Deb (Suzanne Snyder, THE LAST STARFIGHTER) are the girls Gary and Wyatt realize they’re more into than their computer creation. But they’re already dating shitbag bullying dickface new wave dudes Ian (Robert Downey Jr. after BABY IT’S YOU, FIRSTBORN and TUFF TURF) and Max (film debut of Robert Rusler, right before A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, which Downey reportedly drove him to the audition for). Hilly and Deb have enough of a conscience to question the bullying, but it still seems improbable that they start to think Gary and Wyatt are cool because they know Lisa. Especially after a long, awkward encounter with them in the smelly bathroom.

The other antagonist of the movie is Wyatt’s idiotic military dude older brother Chet (Bill Paxton between THE TERMINATOR and COMMANDO), who they have to hide Lisa and their various magic computer creations from. Oh no, he’ll tell Mom that we played God! This might be Paxton’s first big chance to be a funny goon, and then he played Hudson.

One of many ways the party gets out of control is when the weird science summons some movie character type toughs to drive into the house on motorcycles and terrorize everybody. This includes Michael Berryman as “Mutant Biker” and Vernon Wells as “Lord General,” a very Wez-like post-apocalypse type character who’s even referred to as a “road warrior” in the script.


Hughes pulls that very 1980s male fantasy thing that Gary and Wyatt are scared but then when these monsters threaten a woman it offends their code of male duty so they summon their inner mandom and become invincible like Popeye when he eats spinach. Suddenly they’re cocky about their ability to fight these scary dudes. It makes no sense to me at all but it gives Berryman maybe the funniest line in the movie, so I can’t object too much.

No, never mind, I forgot that Gary defeats Wez by calling him a homophobic slur. I do object.

One part that made me laugh is when Gary’s mom (Barbara Lang, “Librarian,” one episode of Mr. Belvedere) realizes that her son sometimes locks himself in the bathroom to masturbate. She starts crying and says “You told me you were combing your hair!”

Some of the overly generous sympathy I might’ve had for Gary and Wyatt goes out the window when they tell Ian and Max the secret of Lisa and try to make one for them. Jesus christ, boys. Not only have you learned nothing, but you knew less than I thought you did in the first place. Lisa tsks them for it, but partly because they did it wrong, causing all kinds of random weird science to happen. The one that most goes against Hughes’ reputation as the high end teen movie guy is a totally disconnected sequence about a sexy neighbor or something (Playboy Centerfold Kym Malin, who had been in JOYSTICKS and would later be “Party Girl” in ROAD HOUSE) playing piano and then her fireplace starts acting as a vacuum and sucks her clothes off and then sucks her in and shoots her out the chimney naked into a swimming pool. It seems more like a Motley Crue video than it does THE BREAKFAST CLUB.

I can’t say I really like or relate to this horny 14 year old boy movie, but I do think LeBrock is charming far beyond the obvious hotness she was hired for, and the character of Lisa somehow rises above the proceedings. She’s literally a boy’s sex fantasy come to life in a movie where characters frequently talk about “bimbos” and “hussies,” but she’s kind of the Bugs Bunny character who’s always in charge. She’s funny and cool, with her own playful sense of fashion and an admirable don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that nobody around her knows how to deal with.

Also, hats off to the make-up FX of Craig Reardon (EATEN ALIVE, ALTERED STATES, THE FUNHOUSE, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, POLTERGEIST, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE) for the weird scene where Chet gets turned into a shit monster or whatever. It’s weird that I saw this movie as a youngster and didn’t remember that part. Usually that sort of stuff is what makes the biggest impression on me.

And again, the theme song by Oingo Boingo is really good. The movie would be about 50% less good without it.

Ah, hell – as long as we’re getting superficial, it’s also an excellent logo. Titles credited to R/Greenberg.

This is the only collaboration of Hughes and producer Joel Silver, who had primarily done Walter Hill movies up to that point, but would soon launch more fully into Silverdom with COMMANDO. It might just be because Weird Science was the title of an EC Comic, and Silver owned the film rights to those (later resulting in Tales From the Crypt), so it’s kind of like Marvel having a copyright on Hulk Hogan. I have read that the plot is inspired by a Weird Science story called “Made of the Future,” but from what I’ve read about the story it sounds like a stretch to me.

Horny-ass Roger Ebert gave the movie a generous three stars, but I actually agree with pretty much everything in his review. He points out that it involves “a new myth, that of the teenage computer geniuses who lock themselves in their bedrooms, hunch over their computer keyboards and write programs that can change the universe.”

Gene Siskel gave it 2.5 fewer stars, calling it “a disappointment,” “a vulgar, mindless, special-effects-cluttered wasteland” and “a tasteless romp through tired, grade-B teen movie situations.”

Since I mentioned that Kandy Bar scene being Problematic™ by modern standards I should disclose that Sheila Benson’s review in the Los Angeles Times noted “the racially offensive character or sequence” on a list of Hughes trademarks, and called the scene “insulting and loathsome.” So it’s not as if it went unnoticed at the time. As negative as Benson’s review is overall, she liked LeBrock too:

“The film’s greatest asset is Kelly LeBrock, who is triumphant. She may represent souped-up womanhood at its most fanciful but she does so with great warmth and a sharp sense of herself. (To Hughes’ credit, he lets his two Galleria girls–who will find their way to the boys’ sides–react to her generously, as well they might.)”

That asset must’ve been enough. WEIRD SCIENCE opened in 4th place but eventually made almost $40 million on a $7.5 million budget. While I don’t think it ranks in the top of Summer of 1985 movies that people still talk about, I do hear it mentioned occasionally. Mostly Bill Paxton’s part. But people remember it exists. It just had to pretend to have a hot girlfriend so people would notice it.

NOTES:

FRIGHT NIGHT was also released on this date (and opened a little bigger). That one fits the trend of THE GOONIES, EXPLORERS and sort of WEIRD SCIENCE of being an homage to old timey entertainment (in the form of a Hammer-esque actor turned horror host), but with an acknowledgment that its young hero Charley is unusual for caring about that shit in the age of slasher movies. Check out my review from 2017 for more information.

Summer of 1985 connections:

When Ian and Max meet Lisa, Ian tells her “We call him Mad Max.” He does not mention Thunderdome though.

Joel Silver also produced BREWSTER’S MILLIONS, and must’ve brought along stunt coordinator Bernie Dobbins and costume designer Marilyn Vance.

Craig Reardon, who did the “Chet Blob” and other makeup FX, also created the Sloth makeup for THE GOONIES.

The creation of Lisa involves scanning a Kelly LeBrock pictorial from Playboy, which continues the Playboy motif of GOTCHA! and RAPPIN’. (They also have a Penthouse.) And I’d say a kid accidentally manifesting a nuclear missile inside his house has some relation to the Cold War themes we were seeing earlier in the summer. It comes from a real 1983 Time magazine cover story entitled, “NUCLEAR POKER – The Stakes Get Higher And Higher.”

Lisa points a gun at Gary’s dad and says, “Go ahead,” and he says, “Make her day?” So I think that’s the third “Go ahead make my day” of the summer after GOTCHA! and FLETCH. And now I regret that I didn’t include May 5th release PRIVATE RESORT in this series, because apparently it has one too.

Pop culture:

Bedrooms are decorated with posters for Depeche Mode, Human League, STOP MAKING SENSE, and WHEN DINOSAURS RULE THE EARTH (that last one following the Joe Dante model of “modern nerds should be into movies that came out when I was a kid”). There’s a Billy Idol pin and a General Public record. We see some Munsters and Dave TV (MTV programming hosted by David Lee Roth). There are references to Rex Harrison, John Wayne and Phil Donahue. The ROCKY theme plays.

Legacy:

The “additional music” credit for Alf Clausen is the prolific orchestrator and conductor’s first credited composing work for a feature film. He’s now known as the primary composter for The Simpsons.

A full nine years later there was a syndicated USA Network TV show that ended up lasting five seasons! Vanessa Angel (KINGPIN) played Lisa, who grants the boys wishes each episode, with John Mallory Asher (young version of Donald Sutherland in SPACE COWBOYS) as Gary, Michael Manasseri (LICENSE TO DRIVE) as Wyatt and Lee Tergeson (POINT BREAK, NO ONE LIVES) as Chet. John Hughes had no involvement – it was created by Alan Cross and Tom Spezialy of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. (Spezialy later developed Ash vs Evil Dead and executive produced Watchmen).

In 2013 there was talk of Joel Silver producing a remake written by Michael Bacall (SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, 21 JUMP STREET). Then it didn’t happen.

Robert Downey Jr. (Ian) continued to act, appearing in U.S. MARSHALS and others. Anthony Michael Hall (Gary) will play Tommy Doyle in HALLOWEEN KILLS. LeBrock didn’t do another movie for five years, but when she did it was HARD TO KILL, so she was obviously just waiting for a movie that would be her legacy. To date her most recent credit is the 2015 Fred Olen Ray made-for-Starz movie A PRINCE FOR CHRISTMAS.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2020 at 10:44 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

65 Responses to “Weird Science”

  1. I absolutely loved this movie as a kid. I don’t even know how many times I watched it. Haven’t seen it in years, though, and I suspect it wouldn’t hold up.

    But don’t be too upset about not doing Private Resort for the series. I watched it a few months ago out of curiosity and it is absolutely terrible. I mildly chuckled once at a Jon Lovitz line and there was the novelty of seeing a young Megan Mullaley, but other than that it had absolutely nothing to offer.

  2. Surely Vern just forgot to mention that this Downey guy went on to make 1969 before U.S. Marshals. I don’t know if “and others” gives 1969 its propers.

    Nice review of a movie that my friends always seemed to like a little more than I did. I don’t recall whether I was turned off by the already rotting jokes, but I do recall wanting to see more of the brother and the bullies (and Lisa, duh) and less of the nerds/heroes.

  3. Missed this one as a kid and finally sat down to watch it about a year ago, free of nostalgia blinders. The opening sequence of them getting pantsed in front of the girls was so unbelievably fucking funny I was like “Oh shit, this is gonna be great.” Then it wasn’t great. The non-Anthony Michael Hall part of the duo is fucking terrible, the prolonged (!) scene where Anthony Michael Hall ‘speaks black’ is super awful, and there are more missed jokes than hits. However, there are bright spots. Yes, Kelly LeBrock is way better than the part requires her to be. Anthony Michael Hall devours the screen with total fearlessness. And Bill Paxton’s hair! Apparently he showed up on his first day and instructed the hair & makeup person to cut it that way, not knowing if Hughes would like it or whether he’d fire him for doing it. God bless Bill Paxton.

  4. I always mix this one up in my mind with REAL GENIUS (which I guess is probably coming up for a 1985 review pretty shortly here). Obviously ya remember that this one is the titty movie and that one is the space-laser-house-popcorn movie, but if you put a gun in my face and demanded I identify which one of these movies Bill Paxton or Anthony Michael Hall or Val Kilmer was in, I’d sweat it out for 10 minutes before guessing “both?”

    And then you would shoot me.

  5. There is an alternative timeline where Golan-Globus see The Chocolate War and hire the director (Keith Gordon; who could have played the part a few years earlier) and cast (Ilan Mitchell-Smith vs John Glover) for Spider-Man.

  6. I would like to add that Alf Clausen is also known as being the primary composer for ALF! That must have been a funny job interview.

  7. I used to love the tv show but not the movie. The show did a lot of pop culture references including some funny nods to Pulp Fiction. I assume it holds up better then the movie. Lee Tergeson is every bit as good as Bill Paxton.

  8. According to a book about the history of TALES FROM THE CRYPT that my sister owns, this one was supposed to be a “real” WEIRD SCIENCE movie and William Gaines was pissed when it became a silly teen comedy, to the point where Joel Silver had a lot of convincing to do, to let him make the TFTC TV show.

  9. Man I just rewatched this childhood favorite a few weeks ago and was shocked how much I didn’t like it. I used to think every line of this was comedy gold, but this time the whole thing seemed plodding and aimless, with useless scenes going on forever, obnoxious lead characters, and about a 20% hit rate for jokes. The last 30 minutes feels like “let’s cram in every random special effect we can think of” which probably wowed me back then, but today all I’m thinking is “wait is that poor naked girl still floating outside in a puddle of water?”

    LeBrock is wonderful, but yeah, I don’t know why the movie can’t decide if she’s a wise mentor or Frankenstein’s monster gone rogue. The concept of a genie (sex object) having a strong mind and not giving her masters their wish (sex), but instead giving them the confidence to go out and make their wishes come true – that’s great stuff! But too bad it’s muddled to hell and doesn’t she actually start to bone Mitchell-Smith? After all this time I’m still confused by the gymnastics/panty switching scene. Speaking of shit I shouldn’t really be thinking about and confused by – what’s up with the ending? I always thought she showed up as a gym teacher at a random high school to help the next generation of losers find confidence, but….it’s Gary and Wyatt’s high school? Isn’t that going to be a little awkward?

    Other things I noticed: That they acknowledge Kelly LeBrock is a famous model in this movie’s universe, kinda like how Fight Club acknowledges there is an actor named Brad Pitt who looks alot like its own Genie/Mentor/Frankenstein’s Monster. I also noticed for the first time that “Wez” actually leaves in one of those dune buggies from The Road Warrior with the two hostages strapped to the front. I wonder if George Miller got any royalties from this.

    Btw, I think they announced the remake was supposed to have two female leads and Channing Tatum as the Lisa character. That would have been fantastic and I’m a little surprised it never happened.

  10. Riffback: I was going to make a joke about the premise being so offensive that the only way Hollywood would remake it is if they change it so *a guy* is the sex slave, but according to neal2zod they really tried that. Sigh…

  11. I’m glad to hear that Ebert identified the new myth of computers at the time of release. In my mind, this movie is sorted in the “Computers = Magic” group of movies, which also includes WAR GAMES, HACKERS, and THE NET.

    REAL GENIUS might fit too since it has that one part where the ultra-smart dude with the beard and long hair shows how smart he is by looking at a screensaver of colorful bubbles while typing.

  12. I honestly forgot Bill Paxton was in Commando.

  13. As Radar Guy!

    I am more familiar with the Weird Science TV series with Vanessa Angel. She is incredibly hot.

  14. This is the only movie with any contribution from John Hughes in any capacity that I even remotely like. A lot of that has to do with Bill Paxton’s performance (Sternshein is right, Lee Tergeson is actually very funny in the show), but also I think that making the protagonists two teenage losers literally hiding out in the basement mitigates a lot of the jokes and situations that, as Vern delicately puts it, wouldn’t go over so well today. I generally don’t have too much trouble laughing at crass humor, but giving this movie the explicit perspective of a pair of under-socialized horndogs gives stuff like the scene at the bar a context in which it almost works. If you’re going to let your id run wild in your movie, this is the proper vessel in which to put it.

    For a much less palatable contrast, see nearly every other one of Hughes’s other movies, which tended to have as much racism and sexism and general misanthropy as WEIRD SCIENCE, but usually coming from the perspective of characters who we were supposed to identify and empathize with in a much more straightforward way. I don’t think that Sam Baker or Ferris Bueller or Uncle Buck or Kevin McCallister, for whatever flaws their movies might acknowledge in them, are meant to be presented with the sort of ironic lens that we see the two science weirdos through. Sam Baker isn’t funny because she’s weirded out by Long Duk Dong, Long Duk Dong is funny because he weirds us out (and is Chinese, hardy har har!).

    I don’t know, I’m probably just working overtime to rationalize my disdain for Hughes, who I was (ostensibly) right in the exact demographic for when he was popular, and I just couldn’t stand him. I don’t want to drag some poor dead boomer for having a guy-born-in-1950 sense of humor, nor do I think that trainspotting every Problematic joke from 35-year-old movies is a productive use of anyone’s time (and nor do I think that Problematic (necessarily) = Not Funny). I just think that this is the one movie of his that expresses his bleak worldview in a way that’s in any way entertaining and watchable, and he does it by jumping head first into the deep end of his contempt for the world – even contempt for his audience and for the norms of cause-and-effect storytelling by making the climax just a bunch of bullshit non-sequiturs!

    (I also haven’t watched this in probably 20 years, so I reserve the right to change my mind when I finally watch it again and discover I’m full of crap. Maybe I’ve gotten the whole Hughes oeuvre wrong and CURLY SUE is actually the key to his filmography.)

  15. I feel like we must have talked more about John Hughes and his various artistic failings and successes here in the last couple months than anywhere else on the internet has in a decade.

  16. This flick weirdly changed my life. I went to Catholic school through 5th grade but made the switch to public for 6th. Weird Science opened just days before I started and I was a fish out of water, didn’t know anyone and was completely terrified. Punk and New Wave were a pretty big deal but my pop music knowledge was basically Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince. I probably saw WS the first or second week of school and immediately fell in love with the title song…could not get it out of my head. Shortly thereafter I’m at the mall with my mom and I pop into Hastings Records and asked the clerk if they had the soundtrack to WS on vinyl. The guy gives me this funny look and says “You like that song? Well, it’s the only good song on the album, the rest of it sucks. Instead, you should just buy the new album from Oingo Boingo called Dead Man’s Party. That song is on there and the whole album is great.” I took his advice and just like that, I had a knew favorite album (I still have it). It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that that album completely expanded my musical horizons, and said musical expansion led me directly to getting into skateboarding by the end of the year. Getting into skateboarding transformed my confidence and social skills which in turn led me to other skaters who, 35 years later, are still my best friends in the world.

    Now that I think about it, I’d also say that Kelly LeBrock in a tube top and leotard swinging a coaches whistle is peak 80’s hotness. Right up there with the aesthetic in ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man…they should bring that look back.

  17. That Michael Berryman line really is terrific and makes me smile just thinking about it.

    Loved this as a kid, totally crushed on Kelly LeBrock, but I always wondered how it wad possible. There was a lot i didnt understand about the reality of it. But didnt care because boobs. Curious how it plays now.

    But, I understand Dan’s point, as I too havent cared for John Hughes films as much as most of my generation. Can’t explain it, just didnt speak to me, and watching them now is just tough. Hall does the same shtick with the “Black voice” in the getting high scene in Breakfast Club. And ive smoked a fair amount of pot and have had no desire to make that voice. Nor can I break glass by screaming at it.

    Anyway my point is Kelly LeBrock is hot.

  18. Not the biggest Hughes fan either. He isn’t completely awful, I actually like a few of his movies (including some that he just wrote), but generally, without picking out the cherries, let’s say one half of his output hasn’t aged too well (and not just in the political correctness department), the other half contains two or more stupid crooks who fall on their asses and get hit in the head a lot. HOME ALONE really broke him, I guess. Looking back at his output, he’s definitely one of those “Sheesh, how could he ever become THAT popular?” guys.

  19. I watched this a few months ago for the first time on 20-30 years and was surprised that I liked it more than I did then. Which is to say, I didn’t like it then, and found it mostly inoffensive but with a couple slightly humorous and good parts. LeBrock is great, Chet is classic, Downey Jr dressed like Duran Duran is hilarious, etc.

    Oingo Boingo was my favorite band growing up, and I was obsessed with the Dead Man’s Party album which had Weird Science as its last song. I grew out of it, though Just Another Day (which was my favorite song for years) still holds up, and Dead Man’s Party is still great, and Weird Science is a perfect, catchy movie title song. But most of the rest of it is mediocre at best and suffers badly from Danny Elfman’s lyrics, where he just seems to throw cliched phrases into a blender and a song pops out. That works fine for a movie theme song but not very well otherwise. I now prefer Oingo Boingo’s earlier albums, especially Nothing to Fear which was my least favorite as a kid.

    The other day my wife was listening to a Chinese singer who was just doing cover tunes and holy shit she started singing “Stay” from Dead Man’s Party. It is good to see that this Elfman guy is still remembered after his failed solo career.

  20. REAL GENIUS is way the hell better than this and I’ve got my fingers crossed for an upcoming review. (Funny that it’s from the writing team behind POLICE ACADEMY, BACHELOR PARTY, and MOVING VIOLATIONS. Maybe this was the one time they weren’t slumming it. Or maybe it all comes down to Martha Coolidge’s talent.)

    One of the bikers in WEIRD SCIENCE is Jennifer Balgobin, who found a niche for herself in the ’80s playing vaguely post-apocalyptic punk girls — REPO MAN, CITY LIMITS, STRAIGHT TO HELL, CHERRY 2000, etc.

  21. I used to dislike Hughes a lot for the many ways his ovies tried to convince us that the world would be better off if everybody was a FM Rock digging square (the makeover in BREAKFAST CLUB, the ending to PRETTY IN PINK etc.). But then I read that most of this was forced upon him by the studio, and that he wrote SOMEKIND OF WONDERFUL as a response. Can’t remember a lot about this one, though, other than Paxton and the Vernon Wells/Michael Berryman scene.

  22. This movie is pretty indefensible by most standards, yet I will defend it anyway on the grounds that it is honest. Teenage boys are, in fact, amoral sociopaths who simultaneously see females as non-sentient fuckdolls AND as magical, enigmatic creatures of total power and cruel whimsy. (History has taught us that many men never stop being teenage boys.) The film endeavors, in its clumsy way, to teach the boys a lesson about their objectifying ways by making Lisa by several orders of magnitude the coolest, smartest, kindest, and most badass character in the movie (if not Hughes’ entire filmography) and turning the horndogs into the butt of every joke. In doing so, it illustrates how idiotic a young man would have to be to think that he could control such a mighty force as womanhood. There’s never one moment that gives in to the sex-slave fantasy the premise implies. Even when Lisa is sexualized (which is often but not as often as you’d think) it’s a power move for her; the boys talk a big game but her confidence and self-assurance ruins their puny fantasy and renders them impotent. It’s a film that regards female power with both awe and terror, and I think that’s a fair starting point for what’s essentially a movie about learning to see the opposite sex as people and not objects. Like many of the films of Kevin Smith, it seems like both a textbook example of toxic male attitudes and an examination of/apology for same.

    As for the racism, I can’t defend the nightclub scene other than I believe its clueless heart was in the right place. It’s trying to show that being accepting of (and accepted by) other races is the very height of awesomeness for white people, but in the process of trying to show how not racist it is, the movie gets totally racist. Which is a thing white people do with some regularity, in my opinion. I mean, it’s not as bad as ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING where a room full of legitimate Chicago bluesmen are supposed to be impressed by a white teenage girl speak-singing badly about how tough babysitting is, but it’s pretty bad. And yet “She kicked you in your NUTS?!” is still a hilarious line.

    And really that’s the main defense of this indefensible movie: I still think it’s funny. The script is full of zingers delivered masterfully by everyone except the kid playing Wyatt, and even his weird codeine cadence adds a certain charm. The special effects are colorful and unique (I always loved the all-blue room), and Bill Paxton remains the platonic ideal of the asshole older brother character. I remember as a kid being shocked and appalled that a big brother (a sacred mantle in my household) would actually extort money from his little brother. I was also stunned that a teenage boy would even have access to sums that vast. But that’s the John Hughes bubble for you: amazingly perceptive in some instances, utterly blinkered in others. But the blind spots are a big part of what makes his pre-HOME ALONE work still worth chewing on.

  23. I grew up loving this and all things John Hughes and I think I will steer clear of re-watching it. I caught a little bit of Breakfast Club recently, and boy it feels like the dialogue was written by a college freshman in Creative Writing 1. Also saw Ferris Bueller again, though, and it still holds up very well.

    Considering all the hard R horny teen movies that came out when this did, it is actually kind of surprising it is as tame as it is.

  24. I dunno, all the black kids I grew up with thought the Problematic™ Kandy Bar scene was hilarious. But what do they know?

    Anyway, for whatever reason I always found the funniest line to be RDJ’s “I’M SHITTING IN MY PANTS!”
    Using the present-perfect makes it much funnier than plain ‘ol “I shit my pants” for some reason.

  25. I did have a major “is this it?!?” moment when I saw THE BREAKFAST CLUB (in 2003), which I assumed would be great given how it had endured in popular culture, particularly through the Simple Minds (one of my favourite bands, though not much for that song (which they didn’t write)) track. I found the characters obnoxious and unlikable, the drama trite, talky and obvious (particularly the scene with the janitor and the principle), and I must admit as a rather sheltered teen at that time I found the “cool” pot smoking scene really alienating. Seen it once since, think I underestimated it a little, but not hugely.

    A while later trying to understand the whole teen movie thing I tried some other Hughes joints with mixed results. I dug FERRIS BUELLER by myself, but was kind embarrassed watching it with others. PRETTY IN PINK was quite good, SIXTEEN CANDLES was OK, not sure I got the whole Molly Ringwald thing though. My only lasting attachment to these films is spinning the SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL soundtrack semi-regularly.

    This one I didn’t dig at all, besides the title track. I quite liked JUST VISITING.

  26. Vern, just for clarity, the “Weird Science” TV series was actually a USA Network original series.

    And I liked Vanessa Angel in the Lisa role more than Kelly LeBrock. YMMV, and some may consider that cinematic sacrilege, but oh well. ‍♂️

  27. This is one of those that I feel I should dislike, but can’t help but like. Maybe some of that is nostalgia. I haven’t seen it in years, so I could feel different upon further viewing. I do think that LeBrock should’ve been able to launch a much more successful and diverse career after this performance. Although, to be fair, I have no idea why she didn’t have more success. Just after this movie is when she married Steven Seagal and started having kids, so maybe she chose to go a different route. I just selfishly wish there were more movies that could’ve showcased her charm and charisma because she has those in bucketfuls in this one.

  28. I love WEIRD SCIENCE. I saw it way too young on one of those movie channel free weekends, and when you’re seven years old, it FEELS like an R-rated movie.

    I essentially came here to say the same thing as Majestyk. Yes, it’s problematic, but so are hormonal teenage boys in 1985.

  29. I do think that LeBrock should’ve been able to launch a much more successful and diverse career after this performance. Although, to be fair, I have no idea why she didn’t have more success. Just after this movie is when she married Steven Seagal and started having kids, so maybe she chose to go a different route. I just selfishly wish there were more movies that could’ve showcased her charm and charisma because she has those in bucketfuls in this one.

    Also remember she was the Pantene “Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful” woman. Which was probably good for her bank account, but I think lowered her image as a screen star (not to mention, those commercials were mercilessly made fun of by pretty much everybody. Her, being the butt of the joke)

  30. I watched a few clips of the TV show. It looks definitely amusing. Especially Lee Tergesen, who is since OZ one of my favourite actors, seems like he had the time of his life, going full mega as Paxton’s replacement. Not sure if it ever made it to German TV screens, but I really wanna track it down now.

  31. I was too young to understand Hughes movies when I was elementary age in the 80s but having grown up in the area they were made I totally understand them now.

  32. True confession time: When I was a kid I tried to bring my sister’s Barbie doll to life by plugging it into the wall. My friend and I took a frayed wire, jammed it into the doll and plugged the other end into a wall outlet. I thank God I didn’t burn the house down.

    I once told Anthony Michael Hall that story. He said I was the first who’d ever told him they tried that.

    I think Mary Poppins and Cat in the Hat are apt comparisons.

  33. Recently I saw someone on twitter pose a question about people’s favorite character actors. Since then I keep thinking, “oh, and that person, too!” Lee Tergesen is one that I’m always happy to see pop up in things.

  34. Mine’s not very original, but I’ve been a Dick Miller man since more than a decade before I’d ever heard the words “Dick Miller.” He was my original That Guy, and for me, there will never be anyone with as favorable a screentime-to-entertainment value ratio. He made every second count. I mean that literally: In USED CARS, he is onscreen for exactly one (1) reaction shot and still gets a laugh. Nobody did it better.

  35. I think my #1 pick is Stanley Tucci, but there’s a lot of good ones. Pretty much anyone who ever appeared in Justified was also on my short list. Minus Timothy Olyphant, of course, but that’s because he’s leading man material.

  36. My #2 is Brad Dourif. He would probably be #1 except I think of him as an alternate universe leading man and not a character actor.

  37. Vincent D’Onofrio. Can always count on that guy to give a role some kind of unexpected, memorable spin.

  38. William Fitchner for me.

  39. How is William Fichtner 64 years old?! He’s looked 40 years old in everything I’ve ever seen him in.

  40. Tough question to narrow down to just one! Off the top of my head, I’m never mad to see Delroy Lindo, William Forsythe, or Judy Greer pop up in something. Or Bill Duke. Or Miguel Ferrer! Shit, I really blew this question.

  41. Margo Martindale was one of the first that came to mind for me and that’s how I started slipping down the Justified slope – Walton Goggin’s really good. Oh, and Jere Burns. And Neal McDonough. And away I went.

  42. +1 for Judy Greer. When I see her in a Verizon commercial I am not sure whether to be happy to see her or sad that she is in it. Leslie Ann Warren too, who I mix up with Judy Greer for some reason.

    Nick Chinlund I have loved since I first saw him on the X Files like 25 years ago.

  43. Oh and since I just brought him up in a different comment, how could I ever forget about Clancy God-Damn Brown?

  44. Every time I see Nick Chinlund I say, “Necrophile!”

  45. Phillip Baker Hall. Bill Duke. Willem Dafoe is too big perhaps, but he’s got the heart of a character actor, (whatever the hell that means) as does Michael Shannon.

  46. I always get this confused with MY SCIENCE PROJECT, another teen sci-fi comedy that came out the same year. Michael Berryman plays a post-apocalyptic mutant in that one as well.

  47. Keith David, and Private Resort rules.

  48. Whenever I see Patrick Fischler show up in something, I find myself irrationally glad that he seems to be doing alright.

  49. Michael Wincott! I sat through all episodes of WESTWORLD hoping his character Old Bill from episode 1 and 5 would be brought back to life again.

  50. Crustacean, I always mixed up My Science Project with Real Genius.

    Also The Manhattan Project/Philadelphia Experiment but never saw either of those movies.

  51. Welcome presences in films old and new…Strother Martin, Bruce (“Wipe that smirk off your face!”) McGill, John Carpenter regulars George Buck Flower, and Peter Jason (also in the Walter Hill gang for a while) and the supremely shifty JT Walsh.

  52. pegs man- Michael Wincott! Canada’s most underrated treasure! His voice deserves a monument.

  53. Autocorrect has betrayed me yet again by adding a space where there was no space before.

  54. Michael Wincott for sure, but I have to give it to another Canadian Michael, Michael Ironside. I was about to say that he invariably lifts a movie for me, but then I remembered HIGHLANDER II (I should let it go, I know). And since we now have Ironside, Clancy Brown and William Forsythe mentioned here, it must be time to remind Vern that the world needs his EXTREME PREJUDICE review: now more than ever!

    I’m always pleased to see Hector Elizondo too, even if that means watching a lot of Garry Marshall movies.

    But since I mentioned him recently, and even though he’s been dead 20 years, I gotta say I think J.T. Walsh was the That Guy for our time.

  55. Hector Elizondo is great! I get him mixed up with Ruben Blades though, who is also great. That guy made COLOR OF NIGHT almost watchable (with help from Leslie Ann Warren and Brad Dourif…)

  56. I guess a work horse like James Hong deserves a mentioning too. It’s hard to think of a movie he isn’t in.

  57. My #2 is Brad Dourif. He would probably be #1 except I think of him as an alternate universe leading man and not a character actor.

    Well, there is Wise Blood. And he is pretty exceptional in it, especially for basically yelling every line he has.

  58. Regarding Vern’s opening line to this article, the only John Hughes film that I’ve thought of as “different” is Planes, Trains & Automobiles because of the “no teen/young adult leads” thing. It’s also about the only Hughes film I’ve seen that I’d probably want to watch again.

    As someone mentioned above, James Hong is probably the ultimate “that guy”. He has 439 IMDB acting credits and has been acting since 1954/55. I wonder if there’s any way to search IMDB by number of acting credits. As a CNN article noted a few days ago, he might have the most acting credits ever.

  59. My hands down all-time favourite movie John Hughes wrote is NATE AND HAYES. As most pirate/Indiana Jones ripoffs up until PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, it flopped. But it’s more fun than most of Hughes’ comedies.

  60. Philip J Florian

    August 7th, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    My last memory of this was way back in 1989 or 90 I was on a bus trip with a chorus in college. It was a week-long trip from Ohio to Florida and back. It was a snazzy new bus that had TV screens every few seats and a VCR. Someone brought a movie that we could watch. It was the only movie we had the entire week. It was Weird Science and literally watched it at least 2 times a day for the entire week and loved it.

    I have not seen it since then.

  61. I believe, like Lance Henriksen that William Fitchner started his acting career relatively late (like also aged 31 or so). Hence the relative lack of change in appearance over time, I’m guessing.

    Also it’s also interesting to see Bill Paxton’s son James playing a younger version of Bill’s character John Garrett on Agents of SHIELD. He’s totally channelling Chet there, I reckon!

  62. I didn’t realize that was his son! I’ve been going back and forth about if I thought he was doing a good job channeling Paxton. It’s not exactly right, but he’s definitely got the same expressive mouth, though.

  63. I haven’t watched the new season yet (I wait until they’re on Netflix) but SHIELD is pretty much the only ongoing show I watch anymore since I lost interest in BROOKLYN NINE NINE. I nearly gave up on SHIELD a dozen times over the years, but the last couple seasons made me glad I stuck it out. The cast finally gelled, and they went all in on the crazy comic book concepts, which allows each season to really feel distinct and let all the characters do different things. More importantly, the structure of the seasons allows for mini-arcs so you’re not stuck with a bunch of wheel-spinning filler. It’s freewheeling in a way TV rarely is. It really feels like anything can happen, and isn’t that the point of comic book shit? You got alien invasions, space travel, time travel, demons, body snatching, sexy robots, virtual reality, evil doppelgangers, dystopian futures, a recurring villain who’s come back from the dead so many times it counts as a running gag, the works. By comparison, those Marvel Netflix shows feel positively anemic in terms of creativity and imagination. Their biggest, craziest idea was, like, a medium-sized ninja battle. Yawn. I’m psyched to eventually see the SHIELD crew deal with being unstuck in time. Seems like exactly the kind of thing that will lead to even more craziness down the line. If all TV was this go-for-broke, I might still watch TV.

  64. Billy Drago, guys. “I said your friend died scream in’ like a stuck Irish pig. Now you think about that when I beat the rap.”

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