April 21, 2021 — Plagued by health issues, massive 80s star Michael J. Fox has all but faded from the spotlight — he even announced his retirement from acting this year. Teen Wolf was his second movie in a lead role.
It’s Not a Werewolf Movie
Okay, so it is a werewolf movie, but it’s not An American Werewolf in Paris. Instead, the whole werewolf idea is a thinly veiled metaphor for puberty. Scott Howard (Fox) is average in every way; he is on a mediocre basketball team, has friends, and works at his dad’s hardware store, but dreams of more. His ambitions come true when he finds out he’s a rather powerful werewolf, which makes him the star of his team — and the object of interest for the whole town. From the second you find out Scott is a werewolf, it instantly dives into a coming-of-age movie where he learns many lessons, including Spider-Man’s Peter Parker principle, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
So Many ‘80s Tropes
This film was not short of tropes for 80s movies. Scott lusts after the popular girl Pamela (Lorie Griffin) while ignoring his female best friend that is madly in love with him, Boof (Susan Ursitti). His best friend is a class clown/slacker who goes by Stiles (Jerry Levine), and he has bad blood with Michael J. Fox’s character’s nemesis, Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold) who is on the opposing basketball team and dating Pamela. Even the film’s climax is an underdog sports story where the wolf has gotten them to the championships, but then Scott has a change of heart and decides the team should play as themselves — win or lose.
A Cast of 1,000 Somebodies
Michael J. Fox is by far the most recognizable actor in the film even though he has been away from the spotlight for decades. Also, many of Teenwolf’s main cast have gone on to long careers in character acting. One performance many will recognize is Chubby, played by Mark Holton, who has had roles in other classic films like A League of Their Own, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure — he even returned in recent times to the role of Ozzy in the Leprechaun franchise in 2018. In addition, Jerry Levine and Mark Arnold have been active on the small screen over the years, both having story arcs on several popular television shows. Fox’s character Scott’s dad Harold is portrayed by the late James Hampton, who built an impressive career in Hollywood although he is far more recognizable by face than role.
“Teen Wolf’s phenomenal soundtrack is the ultimate 80s collection of catchy tracks, only begging to be sampled by contemporary artists.”
Better Left in the ‘80s
Scott’s transformation into a werewolf was perfect for the movie; it is a teen comedy, and there was no need to portray a gruesome transformation one might expect from a werewolf movie. The wolf makeup is equally satisfactory and is by no means poorly created, but it shows it was definitely made to convey a light-hearted, dopey version of a werewolf. By today’s standards, the film feels forced on the whole, with every scene dragging the script along until the audience learns a valuable lesson about teamwork and how important it is to be yourself. All that aside, there is a hidden gem in Teen Wolf — the phenomenal soundtrack which is the ultimate 80s collection of catchy, upbeat music — only begging to be sampled by contemporary artists.
OUT OF 10
THE GOOD STUFF
- Decent cast led by Michael J. Fox in his prime.
- Entirely harmless by today’s standards for young and old.
- Awesome 80s soundtrack.
- Underdog sports story that excludes almost all of the elements appreciated by underdog sports stories.
- Only a few exciting scenes.
- Somewhat repetitive as every recycled storyline from an 80s movie seems to be included.
There is nothing explicitly wrong with Teen Wolf; it was pretty tame even by ‘80s standards, especially in consideration of content that is no longer deemed acceptable — the problem is the movie is, through and through, rather dull. I remember loving it as a kid, but maybe my standards were a little lower back then. Teen Wolf was successful enough to spawn a (widely panned) sequel and also inspired an MTV teen drama-comedy series. There have not been any talks about rebooting the franchise, which is quite surprising given the state of Hollywood, but it’s probably for the best. Teen Wolf was a product of its time and in hindsight, it served as more of a vehicle to promote the rising star of Michael J. Fox than an iconic movie, and ultimately it does not stand the test of time, and Teen Wolf should remain a fond memory and is best left in its ear of the 80s.