MGM // 1985 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 25th, 2011
They're already here.
For those of you have sat through the classic Universal horror film Wolf Man but felt it lacked fat guy jokes, cheerleaders and teenagers surfing on the top of windowless 'kid-snatcher' vans, you're in luck! 1985's Michael J. Fox comedy Teen Wolf is now available on Blu-ray for the first time! AAAAA-WOOOOOOOOO!
High School teenager Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox, Back to the Future) has all the problems of any other American '80s teen -- bad acne, a yearning for the head cheerleader, a taste for Duran Duran and hairy palms. Yes, you guessed it -- Scott Howard is also a werewolf! Or maybe you thought 'hairy palms' meant something else?
Anyhow, Scott is a terrible athlete on a pretty terrible high school basketball team. When Scott's supernatural transformation turns him into a star player, both Scott's team and his love life get a much needed boost. Yet with great power comes great responsibility, and Scott soon finds that his newfound popularity may not be because of what's inside, but what's on the outside (AKA 'The Wolf', for those with a deficiency in reading subtext).
Will Scott find the courage to face his greatest challenges as the human he was born to be or as the howling wolf everybody loves?
When Teen Wolf was released in 1985, Fox's Back to the Future had already become a big hit (even though Teen Wolf had been filmed prior to that film's blockbuster success). Teen Wolf's promotional poster even took advantage of this fact, noting "He's BACK FROM THE FUTURE in a new comedy," which really tells you how much the filmmakers were banking on Fox's popularity to sell their film. And sell it did. The movie was a hit, spawning not only a sequel (the far lesser Teen Wolf, Too, starring a far lesser Jason Bateman) but also a cartoon series (also pretty terrible) and a 2011 MTV television series (which looks about as promising as having Howard Stern perform your eulogy). For a movie with a pretty cheesy gimmick (teen turns into cool dude werewolf!), Teen Wolf certainly has had legs.
Which makes it all the tougher to note that Teen Wolf is a just-average film going experience, and this is coming from a pretty big Michael J. Fox fan. Considering my favorite movie roaming the planet is Back to the Future (I even have love for Fox's lesser efforts like Greedy and For Love or Money), I was a little surprised to find myself indifferent to Teen Wolf's dogged charms. Of course, I'd seen the movie a few times prior to this review and had to have seen it at least a dozen times during my childhood. What surprised me most is that the film doesn't really hold up save for Fox's charming performance. He's the sole reason to sit through Teen Wolf.
Teen Wolf's biggest problem is that it doesn't really do a lot with the whole werewolf premise, due either to poor scripting or just a lack of an adequate budget. Scott Howard turns into a man-beast and...that's about it. Oh sure, his eyes sometimes glow. And he can growl and break dance like an inner city kid who's watched Krush Groove one too many times. Otherwise, Scott just looks like Chewbacca's runty second cousin. Before I get hate mail from fans, I was hardly looking for Teen Wolf to be some horror throwback, but c'mon...at least use those powers to do something interesting. There are some deft comic touches with Scott's transformations (a scene where Scott opens the bathroom door in full werewolf mode only to run into his dad in the same vein is amusing) and some funny moments with Jerry Levine as Scott's lecherous best friend, Stiles. However, these moments feel few and far between as we're forced to sit through some pretty stilted dialogue and one of the most one dimensional 'bad guy jocks' ever to grace the screen -- it's as if the corners of actor Mark Arnold's mouth had been permanently nailed to the underside of his cheeks.
I can't completely write off Teen Wolf because the film is breezy at just an hour and a half. There isn't anything that's really offensive here (except for a few penis jokes), and the whole thing is played for laughs. Credibility is stretched to the max (really? A teenager turns into a brand new species and no one from the government shows up?), but when you're watching a movie called Teen Wolf you'd better not be expecting an airtight story.
In other words: come for the only mildly interesting werewolf theme, stay for Michael J. Fox's winning performance.
Teen Wolf arrives on Blu-ray in a very underwhelming 1.85:1 1080p transfer that is good but certainly nowhere near great. I would bet you dollars to donuts that Fox/MGM released this title to coincide with the release of the new MTV TV series remake, and it shows -- little effort has been put into making this a worthwhile transfer. There are some moments when the image is clear, but often it just looks drabs and flat. Considering they want consumers to shell out a premium for this movie, it feels like a cheat that this is the best picture the studio can offer. While I will admit this digital transfer looks better than its DVD counterpart, at the end of the day it won't be winning any awards.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 and shows a lack of dynamic range, which shouldn't be too surprising considering my review of the video transfer. This soundtrack is limited in what it accomplishes -- there are some nice moments peppered through the film (mostly with the cheesy '80s music), but generally speaking this is a bland sound mix that does little except get the music, dialogue and effects into your speakers. Also included on this disc are English, French and Spanish subtitles, as well as Spanish and French Dolby mono soundtracks.
The only extra features on this disc are a theatrical trailer for the film and -- surprise, surprise! -- a promotional piece for MTV's upcoming Teen Wolf television series.
If you're walking into Teen Wolf for the fist time, lower your expectations. For the rest of you nostalgia freaks, Teen Wolf offers an amusing Michael J. Fox performance and little else.
MGM and Fox are guilty of releasing a half baked video and audio mix just so
they can promote their new show. For shame!
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer
* TV Promo