140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
The solitary onion ring in your basket of fries, the picture’s nothing like any of Hughes’ other films. Mostly fun anyway, but in over head.
Spoiler-free Movie Review of Weird Science:
Always great to be back in Shermer…
Never knew this was an adaptation of sorts. I mean, sure, it’s clearly based on Frankenstein, but I didn’t realize there was a more direct link – an old comic book series from the early 1950’s of the same name published by Bill Gaines (publisher of Tales from the Crypt and MAD Magazine), specifically the story “Made of the Future” by Al Feldstein.
Maybe one reason it never occurred to me that Weird Science could be an adaptation is because it’s so obvious of a story it hardly seems like anyone would have needed to write it – stories like these just float in the ether, nearly completely developed, waiting for someone to actually commit them to film.
The premise is so simple it could have been written in crayon. If Weird Science seems like a tv show, that may be because it’s essentially I Dream of Jeannie. It did also spawn a mid-1990’s tv show on USA (and later Sci-Fi) that ran for 5 seasons and 88 episodes! I’m almost tempted to track it down to see how on earth they kept this yarn going for over 30 hours of content. Almost…
John Hughes both wrote & directed this one, and if it isn’t exactly one of his more important films, it’s every bit as fun.
The movie clocks in at just over an hour and a half and there’s no time wasted in this one. We meet the protagonists, they’re humiliated, credits run and then Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) is inspired to create a woman with the computer skills of Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith). Boom – not even seven minutes in and we know everything we need to know.
If this movie wasn’t so good it would be terrible. Actually, the film itself sort of is excellent and terrible in equal measure. For example, I love the cultural awareness like scanning a picture of David Lee Roth as part of creating this virtual girl simulation, but in the same scene the depiction of computer hacking is inexcusably poor, even for the time.
Similarly, I love the scene in the Kandy Bar where Gary is talking about his “trials and tribulations” with the girl “on the telephone”, but it doesn’t totally play as well as it did then. It’s sort of mildly offensive and just not really funny. It’s a bit of nostalgic fun watching Hall play for the back row and everything but it was hysterical when I was 12 or 13. So it doesn’t really age well. Or I don’t…
Weird Science would probably work a lot better if you didn’t know it was a John Hughes joint and subject it to comparison, because it just doesn’t stack up. And that’s really the only thing wrong with it – it came out six months after The Breakfast Club. The bar had been forever raised and this just has to be viewed differently than if it had come out earlier. I guess the first high school trilogy was meant to start with Breakfast Club but Sixteen Candles was an easier sell. From a historical framework I’d probably judge Weird Science less critically if it was the first of the three, not the third…
Nevertheless, the casting and performances are excellent. Anthony Michael Hall gets to do all the fun stuff, but Ilan Mitchell-Smith does a good job. Bill Paxton is just so good as Chet…
As Ian and Max, the semi-bullies, Robert Rusler & RDJ are funny as total dickweeds. I always thought these guys were curious. How are they the popular ones when they dress like Ducky? I may or may have not learned their weird handshake when I was in middle school…
Kelly LeBrock is just so perfect in this film. Lisa is such an interesting character and not at all what you’d expect. The zaniness and penchant for trouble, yes. But the big sister support and protectiveness, no. Her love of the boys is so clear and gentle. Dare I say motherly?
The film is really just a typical screwball 80’s comedy, hardly different in the telling than so many others. Except…there’s all these wonderful moments and great lines. Even when Hughes isn’t really stretching himself his excellence shines through…
“I really don’t think so…Sue…”
“If you want to be a party animal you have to learn to live in the jungle.”
“My dad’s a plumber and he’s into plumbing and I, well I guess you plumb, right, Dad?”
“Don’t threaten me Al! You’re out of shape, I’ll kick your arse.”
“You know, there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll… chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no. Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals.”
“I think Gary and Wyatt are going to force everyone to redefine their terms.”
“When are you gonna learn that people will like you for who you are, not for what you can give them?”
- Great music (I think). Heard the Del Fuegos in there as well as Ratt’s Wanted Man; love it…
- Man the fashion is weird…There are so many bandanas in the party scene it almost defies belief…
- Gary’s mom shows his dad a picture of their son – it’s a photo of Hall as “Farmer Ted” from Sixteen Candles…
- Title track by Oingo Boingo is a classic…
- I find it interesting that they just brought over a fully featured character from The Road Warrior; I mean he’s even dressed the same – did he steal the costume?
- The party and especially the aftermath take up as much time as everything that came before…
- Chet’s transformation – nasty. Even worse than I remember.
- The gratuitous nudity of a random partygoer is both gratuitous and random. As much as we think of the Hughes oeuvre as being particularly enlightened with regards to female representation, there are several real stereotypical blemishes on his pictures that remind you simultaneously that the 80’s were quite a while ago and that Hughes got his start at National Lampoon…
- (That being said, I’m not sure that the story that surfaced in Kirk Honeycutt’s new book, “John Hughes: A Life in Film” about the female stars of The Breakfast Club squashing a gratuitous nude scene in their film is entirely true. It’s a great story if it’s true, but the actress in question, Karen Leigh Hopkins, who shot a few scenes as a P.E. teacher, insists that there was nothing in the script she was given requiring her to disrobe, and she certainly didn’t film any such scene. On the other hand, I’d believe just about anything that Molly Ringwald says…)
- There’s also something seriously hypocritical in painting Ian & Max as jerks with no respect for their girlfriends, considering the implicitly approved of behavior of Jake in Sixteen Candles. And he’s supposed to be the good guy!
Weird Science is sort of the odd Tinkertoy in Hughes’ box of Legos. It just doesn’t really fit in with any of his other pictures thematically or stylistically. In the end, I did end up enjoying this re-watch of a movie that I once loved, even if I didn’t, couldn’t, take the same pleasure in it as I did as a teen. That being said, why are they remaking this?
The Representation Test Score: D (3 pts)
|Main Cast||Anthony Michael Hall Gary Wallace, Ilan Mitchell-Smith Wyatt Donnelly, Kelly LeBrock Lisa, Bill Paxton Chet Donnelly|
|Release Date||Fri 02 Aug 1985 UTC|
|Genres||Comedy, Fantasy, Romance|
|Plot||Two high school nerds attempt to create the perfect woman, but she turns out to be more than that.|
|Tagline||This Bud’s for YOU!|
|Writers||John Hughes (written by)|