Teen Wolf Review

Teen Wolf (1985) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Teen Wolf

Director: Rod Daniel
Writers: Jeph Loeb (as Joseph Loeb III), Matthew Weisman
Stars: Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, Susan Ursitti

I think I liked this movie as a child. That is my justification for admitting I actually watched “Teen Wolf” back in the day and why I am now reviewing this film. The film that Michael J Fox has gone on record in saying he regretted being involved in. It’s hard to believe, but back on its initial release, this came out after the success of Back to the Future. In fact, i’m sure I read on its release in Brazil, Teen Wolf was renamed “Garoto do Futuro” (“Boy from the Future”) to cash on the success of the now classic Robert Zemekis film.

The truth be told the movie was actually shooting at the same time as Back to the Future in 1984. In fact, Scott Howard’s (Michael J. Fox’s) house was located on the same block as 1955 George McFly’s and Lorraine Baines’ houses. Michael J Fox has said in interviews when filming the Wolf movie he was envious of his friend Crispin Glover working on such a cool movie whilst he was running around in a Wolf Costume playing basketball. This was of course when Eric Stoltz was still connected with the Marty McFly role.

There is a saying that goes, what is for you, won’t go by you. This is the case for Michael J Fox because not that long after this he was cast as Marty McFly after the casting of Stoltz didn’t work out on set for whatever reason and this was MJF’s opportunity to become a movie star away from this silly Wolf film. It’s also worth mentioning that in this point in his career his fame rose steadily while filming, due to the increasing success of Family Ties and by the end of production, Michael J Fox needed more security than he did at the beginning.

Teen Wolf is a typical 1980’s film of it’s day in seeing the lead thinking he knows what he wants in life and realises by the end of the movie the thing that he needed most was right there in front of him all along. Scott Howard is a typical teenager who wants to be noticed by his peers. Wants to drink beer, be the hero in the Basketball team and win the girl over. How does he manage to accomplish this? Well he soon discovers that his family have an unusual history and something unusual in their DNA. They are all half human / half wolf. Scott doesn’t know this at first of course and little clues appear as the film progresses to the shock and surprise of the misfit teenager. Michael J Fox is such a likeable guy and I totally understand his unease when this film is mentioned. Already a TV star you can forgive him for accepting this role as at this time in his career he was trying to break into film. This just wasn’t the one that was going to do it. As Scott Howard, he is more of a quiet and awkward teenager just trying to fit in.

Scott is predominately hanging out with his buddies for the most part of the movie. Stiles (Jerry Levine) who is supposed to be funny I guess. He comes across more zany and basically is a typical 1980’s comedy wingman who thinks he is a bit of a hustler. No offence to Levine, he does the job to portray this character and his description, well I guess if this was his intentions. For me, Stiles was annoying and didn’t really show any friendship qualities towards Scott. The other friend is Lewis (Matt Adler) who I remember as the younger brother in Flight of the Navigator. Here his purpose is one of Scott’s friends. There doesn’t seem to be any connection or common ground with them though. It is only when Scott reveals himself as a Werewolf, do we see Lewis’ concerns, fears and distancing himself from Scott.  Boof (Susan Ursitti) is probably his best friend and clearly likes Scott more than he realises. Ursitti is fine as the girl next door character and add some levity to the list of characters. Boof is the ever faithful friend who likes Scott as himself and isn’t one bit impressed by his alter ego.

Possibly the funniest part of the film is his Dad revealing to him that he is in fact a Werewolf too. The prosthetics in this movie are unintentionally funny. They aren’t bad, just what you would imagine a cartoon wolf to look like thats all. James Hampton plays the Dad, Harold Howard and the character is there to make sense of what is happening to Scott and the token adviser amongst the craziness in the film. Hampton would go on to make a cameo in the sequel (Which I will talk about shortly) but in this one he really is just there for Scott when things look out of control.

The overall theme to this movie is relying on the Wolf character and a lot of sequences showing us what Scott can do when he isn’t just plain Scott Howard. Like playing Basketball. Yes the Michael J Fox character at 5′ 4½” (1.64 m) is the star basketball player. His team mates at first love the fact they have a talented player in the Wolf but as time goes on they realise that they aren’t playing as a team and the focus is totally on Teen Wolf. Stiles (you remember that great friend) he only wants to make money out of the situation by selling Wolf merchandise. Could this character be anymore annoying? I guess the underlying theme here is Scott relies on the Wolf Persona for confidence and I get that and this shouldn’t be forgotten in amongst all the zany characters and 80’s madness.

Overall Teen Wolf probably wouldn’t have had much attention if it wasn’t for delaying the release of this movie until after the success of Back to the Future. I don’t mind that, because we did get to see Michael J Fox as Marty McFly and the rest as they say is History (if you pardon the pun) I don’t think this movie has shied away from that fact and I suppose embraced the success of Fox to it’s benefit. The film is silly, the characters aren’t exactly fleshed out and you have to remember the amount of teen comedies that were out round about this time that were exactly like that with no real development in its characters and shouldn’t be taken any other way. To make a sequel off the back of this absolutely stunned me.  Michael J. Fox disliked this film so much, that he refused to return for the sequel. Replaced by Jason Bateman as Todd Howard his cousin in Teen Wolf Too (1987) which is basically the same story as the original but this time instead of Basketball it is Boxing….Wow.

It’s probably harsh saying this but you won’t feel fulfilled after watching this film. In fact you may feel robbed of your time as the comedy isn’t exactly that great. Fox has always had the knack for his comedy timing and line delivery and here is no different, but even his performance can’t save this. What I am trying to say he is, Michael J Fox isn’t the problem in this movie, everything else is. I cannot recommend watching this film one bit.

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