Friday, April 22, 2011

Teen Wolf Blu-ray Review

I’ve always loved the 80′s whether it’s the music or the movies, but I could do without a lot of the fashion.  1985 was a good year for movies when you consider that The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, Rocky IV, Witness, Fletch, A View to a Kill, Young Sherlock Holmes, and more came out that year. Teen Wolf was wisely released after Back to the Future, which turned out to be the biggest movie of the year. That strategy allowed it to capitalize on Michael J. Fox’s huge success and gave this small movie more box office receipts than expected. Teen Wolf is a light-hearted comedy that is powered solely through the superb star power and charisma of Michael J. Fox.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is the son of a hardware store owner and wants more in life than what he believes is in his future.  He is tired of being normal and ignored by the hot girl in school named Pamela (Lorie Griffin).  He is so intent on winning Pamela over that he is oblivious to the fact that  the girl he grew up Lisa “Boof” Marconi is in love with him.  They’ve grown up together and her feelings for him have grown over the years but have gone unnoticed by him.  As much as Scott wishes he could change himself and his life to impress Pamela, Lisa loves him for who he is.
Of course, Scott gets his wish otherwise there would be no movie, so he turns into a werewolf which he discovers runs in his family since his father reveals that he is one too.  At first Scott is mortified, but soon starts discovering the benefits of turning into a werewolf when his senses are sharpened and especially when Pamela starts to show some interest in him after sensing something different about him.  When Scott reveals his secret to his friend Stiles (Jerry Levine), who thinks the ability is pretty cool. It doesn’t take long for Stiles to work out some lucrative merchandising opportunities once everyone discovers that Scott can shape-change during a basketball game.  Instead of running away in terror as most people would when faced with a werewolf that just changed in front of their eyes, these people sit stunned until Scott starts making baskets which is enough for them and they cheer for him.
From that point on, Scott is a celebrity and he spends his days walking around as the “teen wolf” which raises his popularity to an unprecedented level.  His basketball game has also improved to the level of Michael Jordan and he’s so good that he doesn’t even need his fellow teammates to win which irritates them and causes a rift that will need to be resolved in the third act.  Scott’s odds with Pamela have also had a miraculous change since she is very interested in the wolf. Needless to say, Lisa is not happy that he’s with Pamela or that Scott’s personality has changed so much.  Even Scott’s understanding father Harold (James Hampton) tries to warn his son to get his act together since he is making a fool of himself. When Scott realizes that the only person that everyone cares about is the wolf and not him, he has to decide what and who’s important to him.  With the championship game coming up, he will need to decide whether he will play as the wolf and win the game or as Scott which almost certainly guarantees disappointment all around.
I’ll say up front that I liked the movie when I originally saw it and I was curious to see if I would still like it twenty-five years later.  I’m happy to report that I still enjoy the movie, but I can certainly see its flaws a lot more now than I did then.  For one thing, the werewolf makeup and suit make Scott look more like Bigfoot than a werewolf.  I’m guessing that they did that to expose as much of Fox’s face as possible.  The movie also has a predictable, formulaic plot (co-written by comic legend Jeph Loeb!), and a lot of the supporting cast were fairly weak.  The film has a secret weapon though which is Michael J. Fox.   From as far back as Family Ties, Fox has always has fantastic comic timing and he brings a freshness to this movie that could never have happened without him (think Teen Wolf 2).  Fox is always immensely likable and he shines in this movie even though it’s not one of his best. There’s not a lot to the movie but it’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon and a nice remembrance from the 80s.

Video (3 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looked better than I thought it would but it could have been better.  The transfer does offer some nice detail and colors came across fairly well but I also noticed a lot of white specks throughout the movie.  Black levels were decent  and contrast was acceptable.  Like the colors throughout the movie, the flesh tones were mostly consistent and accurate.  This transfer is pretty good and a step above the previous DVD’s quality, but it could have been cleaned up a lot more.

Audio (2 out of 5 stars) 

Teen Wolf’s DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track drops the ball with a sub-par mix that does little to take advantage of being on the Blu-ray format.  While the movie’s dialogue is clear and uncluttered, the rest of the movie is subdued with the exception of the scene where Scott and Styles are car surfing to the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” which was the only time the mix came alive.  The rest of the music and effects barely register.  Not even the basketball games offer a more lively sound and don’t expect any cross channel panning or any other efforts at immersion.

Special Features (1/2 out of 5 stars) 

In case you missed the pattern, the scores keep dropping the further we go down the list.  These special features leave a lot to be desired but they are in high definition.
  • Trailer for the upcoming MTV Teen Wolf  TV series – A fairly transparent attempt to get some of the Twilight crowd to watch MTV.  The show looks like it’s abandoning the humor of the movie it’s based on and instead going for the ‘tween crowd.  This is definitely not for me.
  • Original theatrical trailer

Final Thoughts (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is a fun look back at one of Michael J. Fox’s earliest roles that has become a fan favorite for a lot of people over the years.  The movie can be watched by families since it focuses on comedy and never tries to take it down the horror route.  A lot of this movie looks dated now but it still has a lot of charm and it benefits from a lot of goodwill that’s built up for it over time.  The Blu-ray is a lot better that the DVD but it could have been a lot better than this.  If you liked the movie, then I recommend picking this up despite it’s shortcomings since I don’t foresee the studio coming out with a fully restored special edition of it anytime soon.
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