Teen Wolf (1985)

teen wolf poster 1985 michael j fox
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 5/10

Classic '80s fun, nice supporting cast

Cheesy, predictable, poorly made

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Teen Wolf

Studio:  Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  August 23, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG

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Yes, let’s all ride on top of cars…nothing dangerous here!

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) has a hard life.  He’s average and unnoticed in school and plays on the basketball team which can barely make a basket, much less win a game.  When Scott discovers he’s a werewolf and along with his father (James Hampton) comes from a long line of werewolves, things begin to change for Scott.  He’s popular, a jock, and finally getting the attention of Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin) (and her boyfriend Mick (Mark Arnold)).  Unfortunately, no one wants Scott anymore and the wolf is threatening to take over his life.

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Puberty sucks…

Directed by Ron Daniel, Teen Wolf is a comedy which gained a cult following over the years.  Penned in part by comic book writer Jeph Loeb, the film was released on the same day as Fox’s hit Back to the Future and received negative reviews from critics (and a huge box office intake due to the film’s small budget).

Michael J. Fox was just on the verge when Teen Wolf was coming out.  His Alex P. Keaton character was popular and Back to the Future was about to explode him as a star…and Teen Wolf fortunately was able to ride its coattails.

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I think we need to talk…

The film borrows its basis from the ’50s B-Horror film I Was a Teenage Werewolf which played the story for horror instead of laughs. The humor in Teen Wolf is sometimes spot on, but generally misses the mark…which almost leads to more humor (it is also a bit edgier than all PG movies of today with drugs and sex often the topic).  It is sluggish and predictable for the most part, and I like that no one is very shocked that werewolves exist.  The exceptions to the lazy plotting are the classic revealing of Scott’s father as a werewolf and the decision to have Scott “outed” as a werewolf instead of hiding a secret…I wonder who is going to win the big game?

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Sorry Stiles, your Teen Wolf merchandise and Teen Wolf dance never caught on!

Michael J. Fox tries his best here and does bring some of his Alex P. Keaton charm.  The fun actor is James Hampton as Fox’s father who suffers from the same “affliction” and steals the transformation scene from Fox.  It always seemed like an easy choice between the likable and cute Boof (Susan Ursitti) and the flat acting of Pamela (Lorie Griffin).  Jerry Levine is a good obnoxious guy (even wearing the shirt) as Stiles and the members of the basketball team like Matt Adler (from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) and the coach played by Jay Tarses also provide some laughs.  The movie feels like an extended sitcom that is loaded with “star” characters that are undeveloped.

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Apparently werewolves who play basketball are non-threatening…like those Twilight vampires who play baseball

The movie is incredibly cheap looking.  Other than the initial transformation which uses very traditional special effects, the movie’s budget is shoestring and looks it.  The werewolves themselves, both Scott and his father, mostly involve some face make-up and hair sticking out their sleeves (Fox’s is a little more involved due to his basketball uniform).  You get lots of bad edits and music which just adds to the ’80s feel…and look and not in a good way (plus you get the classic flub of the man with his fly unzipped in the last shot on the bleachers…check it out!)

Growing up with Teen Wolf, I’m a bit softer to Teen Wolf than some of the critics.  The movie isn’t good, but it does have its moments.  The humor is sometimes on point and other times is so cheesy and misses the mark so badly that it once again becomes funny.  Teen Wolf’s surprise success led to a cartoon spin-off which ran from September 13, 1986 to November 7, 1987 on CBS and an even more maligned sequel Teen Wolf Too starring Jason Bateman in 1987.

Related Links:

Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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