Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hughes at his zaniest

WEIRD SCIENCE (1985)
Reviewed by Jerry Saravia
"Weird Science" is the zaniest film to come out of director John Hughes's oeuvre. It is the sole teen film of his containing sci-fi and fantasy elements that are ground up and delivered with tasteful and tasteless comedy situations. It is not as tasteless or, dare I say, racist (and I do say that with all due respect to Mr. Hughes) and mean-spirited as "Sixteen Candles" nor is it as revealing about high school teenage life as "The Breakfast Club" (his best picture). But there is a core of sensitivity and something genial about "Weird Science" despite having a premise that should be dirtier and tasteless than it is.

Anthony Michael Hall and Ian Mitchell-Smith play the two prototypical teen nerds, Gary and Wyatt, who have nothing better to do on a Friday night than watch a colorized version of 1931's "Frankenstein" (not a bad idea in actuality). While watching the film, Gary summons the spirit of Colin Clive's Dr. Frankenstein in his own mind and comes up with an idea: with Wyatt's supercomputer PC ("Did it come with a toaster, too?") they decide to create their ideal woman. They manage to do this by hacking into a government computer, applying electrodes to a Barbie doll and then, after a red sky appears with thunderbolts striking and causing much damage to the house, Kelly LeBrock appears. "So what do you boys want to do first?" Apparently, Gary and Wyatt want to shower with her while still wearing their pants.

The boys call her Lisa, and Lisa takes them out on the town to a Chicago bar where this triad is not the ideal clientele. Then we get a mall sequence where Robert Rusler and Robert Downey, Jr. play two different teens males who harass the boys yet ogle at the sight of Lisa. Naturally, the film ends with a house party that outdoes "Sixteen Candles" for gross negligence of furniture, closets, and any other fixtures including tossing a piano out of a chimney (or was it the other way around)! The mutants from "Road Warrior" and "The Hills Have Eyes" show up, and Wyatt's grandparents are kept in suspended animation! Oh, lets us not forget the girls, including Judie Aronson and Suzanne Snyder as the two teen girls whom Gary and Wyatt are romantically interested in. And I can't exclude a brief cameo by Jill Whitlow as a perfume salesgirl who puts down the two nerds with sublime restraint ("Are you two getting something for your MOM?")

"Weird Science" is fun, engaging, loose, and occasionally quite gross (Bill Paxton as a toad will have you puking, but not with laughter). Anthony Michael Hall, though, steals the show with his high-energy comic spirit and he made me laugh any time he gapes in close-up. Ian-Mitchell Smith plays the straight man to the chaos of Anthony Michael Hall's cartoonish character and the exaggeration of almost anything else that transpires around them. But I wonder why is it that Lisa is more interested in helping the teenagers than having sex with them, hence the premise of this movie (I know, the boys gave her a brain with the help of Einstein's photo). Hard to say if Gary or Wyatt ever actually participate in anything sexual - the reason they conjured her up in the first place - since Hughes leaves it to the imagination. The lesson seems to be that the boys need to learn to grow up and "mingle." It is almost as if a soft-core porn comedy was transpiring and somebody short-circuited it to change it into a riotous John Hughes teen comedy with great special-effects. I loved the movie in 1985 and I do now, but I am unclear of Hughes's intentions.