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December 5, 2011
 

Movie Mondays: Weird Science

Title: Weird Science
Director: John Hughes
Writer: John Hughes (created by William Gaines and Al Feldstein)
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Kelly LeBrock
Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
MPAA: PG-13

Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are two brilliant students who also happen to be school losers. However, all that is going to change when they create the perfect woman, Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Not only does she become their main crush, she also happens to have powers that can only come from weird science, and is also their guide and mentor. But it’s going to take a lot more than the woman of their dreams to stop bullies Ian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler), get Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson), and avoid trouble from Wyatt’s older brother Chet (Bill Paxton).

I know what some of you might be saying. “You can’t review that, Andrew, that’s not a comic book film. That’s a John Hughes film.” However, believe it or not, Weird Science is indeed a comic book film. It’s loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on a story called Made of the Future, which was featured in EC Comics’ Weird Science #5. So ha! I finally get the chance to review a John Hughes film here.

If you’ve ever seen a John Hughes film (Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc.) then there  are common themes you’ll find. It’s set in Chicago. Most of the characters are teenagers, but there’s themes that adults can relate to. It’s very much Capra-esque (Frank Capra) with a happy ending and lessons learned. And of course, one killer soundtrack.

 

Movie Rule #1345: You're not officially cool until you've smoked a cigar and hung out with the blues crowd.

Most John Hughes films fall into two different categories. Dramadies (Breakfast Club, She’s Having a Baby) and comedies (National Lampoon’s Vacation, Home Alone). This one definitely falls into the comedy section. Now, when I say comedy, my definition and John Hughes’s definition might be different than what today’s audience and movies define as “comedy.” Weird Science isn’t a comedy in the sense that it’s laugh out loud funny. If you’re looking for a The Hangover or Old School, you won’t find it here. Not to say I dislike those kinds of comedies. It’s just that John Hughes does more of a story comedy. The humor is either subtle and in the dialog, or it has to do with the zany mishaps (after all, it is called Weird Science). But it all serves the story, rather than the story serving the humor.

Another thing that 90s born kids (or modern audiences in general) may not like is the pacing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the film goes at a sluggish pace. It certainly picks up in speed when they make the perfect woman. But until then, the first couple of minutes are a lot slower than how I remember it.

 

Rated S for statutory.

However, if you’re able to have old school sensibilities regarding this film, then there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy it. If you’ve seen it before, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it once more. If you haven’t seen Weird Science, then you’re in for a treat.

As with all John Hughes films, the casting is phenomenal. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith are the perfect picks, both acting and look wise. To have the nerds like in this film, you have to find a balance. On one hand, you can’t have “modern nerds” like in the CW or Doctor Who or whoever else girls like. Dawson’s Creek men who just put on a pair of glasses, talk about comic books, and claim that they’re nerds. It’s just not believable that they’d be picked on or outcasts, especially when modern nerds are written with charming dialog. You have to believe those kids couldn’t get laid if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, though, you can’t have the exact opposite. You can’t make them completely socially awkward and ugly. At the same time, there has to be redeeming qualities with them. You have to believe that the two could become popular and they could get the girls. And most importantly, they have to be the likable underdogs. Which Hall and Smith capture perfectly.

 

Parents, this is what happens when your child's party goes unsupervised.

And then of course, there’s Kelly LeBrock as their creation. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so whether or not you think she’s the “perfect woman” depends on your tastes. But it’s important to remember that the two teens are naïve (evidenced by the looks on their faces when Lisa joins them in the shower). They’re not looking for a sex slave, but more of a hot girl that they can have as a girlfriend. And later on, someone who becomes somewhat of a fairy godmother as she helps guide them through the awkward teenage years and gives them confidence. Which is exactly what LeBrock does. Yes, she’s a model. But what could’ve been a shallow character that just flirts is avoided by her portrayal. Instead, LeBrock gives Lisa brains, humor, and wit, making her much more than a teenage fantasy.

The rest of the cast are terrific as well. You have actors like Bill Paxton (“We’re all gonna die man!” guy from Aliens), and even unknowns at the time like Robert Downey Jr. Everybody has a good comedic timing without going over the top.

 

Tony Stark's teenage years.

As stated before, this has an excellent soundtrack. And out of all of the John Hughes films, this perhaps has the most diverse soundtrack. You have pop (Kim Wilde, General Public), alternative (The Lords of the New Church, Wall of Voodoo), metal (Ratt, Van Halen), and even punk (Killing Joke). Not to mention the unforgettable title track “Weird Science” by Oingo Boingo.

When it comes to the special effects, they aged over time as expected. However, there is a certain charm to them and it’s still fairly impressive when you look at the time it was made in. Plus, the movie never pretended to be anything else when it came to the over the top special effects. This is completely pseudo science (pretty much magic) with no pretense of trying to be hard science. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Even Marty McFly likes Weird Science. Taken from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Ro-OPOyJnz4/TWjtbaZoSII/AAAAAAAAARg/yo9Puw9Xd_c/s1600/weird-science-poster-back-to-the-future-episode-one.jpg

This isn’t the best John Hughes film, but it is a great film and certainly one to watch if you haven’t before. Now, before I leave it at this, there is one last thing I want to address. And that’s for any of you who like to read between the lines. Is this a male juvenile fantasy? No. This is everybody’s fantasy, or at least back during high school. Everyone has the idea of the perfect man or woman. And likewise, I think we also all had someone we had a crush on back in high school. Plus, for anyone who’s introverted and into comics, literature, (real) music, or film, I think it’s easy to relate to wanting to be popular or attractive (unless being able to quote pop culture or fiction has become more popular than acting like an obnoxious douche bag or being a prissy boy who pretends to be a geek). So I think the real story of this is wanting to be wanted and wanting the perfect person; and in the process of it all, finding yourself and growing up. And I think that’s something even us adults can relate to.

Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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