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Featured Blu-ray Review: Teen Wolf

April 13th, 2011

Teen Wolf - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

When Teen Wolf came out on 1985, Michael J. Fox was arguably the biggest star around. Family Ties had quickly become a critical darling, as well as a ratings winner. Back to the Future was still at the of the box office. In fact, when Teen Wolf was released, and for the next three weeks, Michael J. Fox had the top two films at the box office. However, flash forward 25 years, and while there are many people who still consider themselves to be fans of Back to the Future, Teen Wolf has faded. Will it be rediscovered on Blu-ray? Does it deserve to be rediscovered?

The Movie

Michael J. Fox stars as Scott Howard, a high school senior and one of the players on his school's basketball team. Normally being on a sports team helps your social standing in high school, but their team sucks. It sucks so much that the hottest girl in school, Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin), is dating the start player from the rival high school, Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold). Scott's only real friends are Rupert "Styles" Stilinski and Lisa "Boof" Marconi (Susan Ursitti) both of whom are on the low end of the social scale as well.

After a tough loss in the opening game of the season, the three friends head to a keg party to unwind, but after a number of strange occurrences over the course of the day (like being able to hear a dog whistle) Scott starts to really freak out at the party. Panicked, he runs home and locks himself in the bathroom as he turns into a werewolf. His father demands to talk to him, and when he relents, he finds out his father is a werewolf as well. The "curse" is genetic, but sometimes it skips a generation, which is why his father never warned him before.

The next day at school, he tries to avoid wolfing out again, a task made more difficult, because he loses control when he's under stress. So in order to have a confidant, he tells Styles. That was a mistake, as Styles immediately starts thinking about ways to earn a buck off of this and wants Scott to pretend the wolf part of him doesn't exist. That no longer is an option after he accidentally wolfs-out at a basketball game. Fortunately for him, apparently werewolves are amazing at basketball. Not only does he help the team win, he becomes the most popular kid in school and starts dating the girl of his dreams.

But of course, the film can't end on a note like that, and Scott has to learn an important lesson, the details of which are definitely spoiler territory.

So how is the movie? I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is that Michael J. Fox has the charm and likability to carry a movie like this. The bad new is, he has to. He is head and shoulders above the vast majority of the cast and only a couple of supporting characters really add something to the movie. James Hampton plays his father and there are some good bonding moments there, while Jay Tarses as the apathetic coach gets more than a few good lines. But most of the rest of the cast is rather forgettable. (So much so that one cast member was apparently forgotten by the writers halfway through. Styles has a lackey that just stops showing up halfway through the movie. Maybe that's explained in a deleted scene that was lost long ago.)

As for the plot, it's a pretty formulaic film about high school popularity, staying true to who you are, and remembering who your real friends are. The film doesn't address any of those issues in a way that stands out. The werewolf angle is used well, even if the transformation scene looks a little cheap. But even here, it's not so important to the film that it couldn't be replaced by any number of other plot devices. (Like Mike and Rookie of the Year immediately spring to mind.) On the other hand, the basketball scenes are less successful and one wonders if the people involved had ever played basketball before.

It's one of Michael J. Fox's weaker films, but it has enough going for it that it's worth checking out, even if the replay value isn't all that high.

The Extras

There are no extras for the movie itself, but there is a 3-minute sneak peak at the upcoming TV series spin-off. It feels more like a spin-off of Twilight than Teen Wolf. Neither the video nor the audio is really that much better than the previous DVD release. There are numerous problems with the video, including obvious flaws in the print. The level of detail is low, contrast is weak, and the colors are muted. Granted, the film was a relatively low budget comedy from the 1980s, so you can't expect it to look like a first run release from today. The audio track is 2.0, so don't expect anything in the way of dynamics. The dialogue is clear, mostly, but a little tinny.

The Verdict

Teen Wolf is far from a great movie, but enough works that it's worth checking out. Given the lack of real extras on the Blu-ray and the weak audio / video presentation, it's not worth the $14 to buy. Call it a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Teen Wolf