Adolescence has probably never been as difficult, awkward, and confusing as it is for poor Scott Howard, a teenager confronted with some very peculiar physical changes. And like all kids his age, dealing with the pressures of high school during this strange developmental stage only makes matters worse. For Scott, long hairs suddenly show up in weird places, fingernails grow sharp and pointy, ears extend further out, and on full moon nights, he feels compelled to howl at the moon. You know, normal teen drama that can't really be shared by friends, completely out-of-touch parents, or an apathetic basketball coach. But on the bright side, at least Scott doesn't have to worry about severe acne.
'Teen Wolf' is an amusing, light-hearted teen flick from 1985 which ponders the issues of growing up from a different perspective. What if you're family comes from an extremely unusual lineage, with a visible oddity that doesn't reveal itself until puberty? Michael J. Fox stars in another memorable role, following close on the heels of his first mega-success in Robert Zemeckis' 'Back to the Future,' which catapulted his career from the small screen to Hollywood stardom. Actually, this small fantasy comedy was shot and completed before the sci-fi hit, but it wasn't released until the following month, essentially capitalizing on Fox's sudden popularity, which can be seen in the movie's alternate titles in the foreign market.
The two movies couldn't be any more different from each other, yet they both explore some universal themes of the modern high schooler. The first sees its young hero learn that his parents were once kids much like himself, while the other has its teen protagonist struggle with life-altering changes during that part of youth when we transition from child to mature adult. Both films also gain tremendously from Fox's talent at making characters seem genuine and comical, like we are somehow laughing at the same ordeals we all face during adolescence. This is perfect since the biggest challenge of 'Teen Wolf' is trying to making the hardships of a werewolf relatable to audiences.
In the first few minutes, Scott explains his frustrations with being average, wishing there was something that made him special and standout from the rest. It's probably safe to assume most of us shared in that sentiment — at least a little — at some point during our high school days. His best friends, Styles (Jerry Levine) and Boof (Susan Ursitti), try to make him feel better, and his father (James Hampton) is as understanding as any parent can be. But it's not until after Scott discovers his extraordinary gift that he realizes such talents come with greater responsibilities. Popularity goes straight to his head, and his new challenge is in learning who cares for him as a person versus those who only admire the wolf.
Written by Jeph Loeb, who also scripted 'Commando' and is well-known as an award-winning comic book writer, 'Teen Wolf' was a modest success at the box-office and was followed by a college-themed sequel with a young Jason Bateman, as well as a Saturday-morning cartoon sitcom. Today — more than twenty-five years too late — MTV is set to air a new TV series which eliminates all the comedy, replacing it with more horror and melodrama. But before investing any time in yet another show full of teen histrionics and woe-is-me seriousness, we can watch the always-enjoyable Michael J. Fox transform into a werewolf and have a good laugh at adolescence, rather than strike poses and stand around moping about it.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Teen Wolf' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside the normal blue keepcase and passable cover art. When placed into a high-def player, the disc goes straight to the movie without any menu options and defaults to lossless audio.
The Wolf may have people cheering for him in the movie, but on Blu-ray, he'd be lucky if one person even offered a cheesy high-five. 'Teen Wolf' makes its high-def debut with a disappointingly subpar video presentation that's by and large soft and lacks the sort of sharp definition we've come to expect from a catalog title.
Sure, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) is a step-up from the DVD, but the difference is very slight as several scenes show that the print used is in poor condition and badly aged. Black speckles often appear, looking like gnats buzzing around the actors, and thin white lines will suddenly run vertical on the screen. Fine object and textural details range from passable and average to indistinct and noticeably blurry.
Contrast is stable, but also generally flat, while blacks are deep and mostly well rendered with good shadow delineation. Colors, particularly greens and reds, are brighter than previous incarnations, but they still remain unexciting and secondary hues are lifeless. The transfer has its moments of HD goodness, but they're few and far between, making this a very unsatisfying picture for a fun 80s comedy.
Things don't improve too much with this DTS-HD MA monaural track, but it's far better than the video.
For most of the movie's runtime, dialogue reproduction is clear and accurate. We can hear every syllable of Michael J. Fox's unique vocal acting. Unfortunately, there are times that the ADR work is distractingly apparent and voices don't precisely match lip movement, like when Scott and his father discuss their family lineage over a cup of hot chocolate. Then there's the issue of imaging sounding very restrained and canned with little movement or activity in the background. Dynamics are also somewhat limited and narrow, and I detected a bit of distortion early on during one of the musical numbers. The best aspect of the lossless mix comes from an appreciably healthy low end, giving various songs and the score some very nice depth and weight. Still, we're heard much better from catalog releases.
Overall, 'Teen Wolf' reveals it desperately needs a good grooming from a professional before trying to pretend it can compete with the best show dogs.
Compared to the bare-bones, double-feature DVD of 2002, this release at least gives fans something to enjoy. More below.
Following on the heels of 'Back to the Future,' Michael J. Fox starred in another fantasy comedy that saw him transform into a teenage werewolf. With a great supporting cast at his side, Fox is amusing as the shy, average kid who gets more than he bargained for when hoping to be popular in school. The Blu-ray comes with passable lossless audio but a just below average video presentation. There's not much in terms of supplemental material, making the overall package somewhat disappointing. Likely best as a rental.