Teen Wolf Too

December 3, 2010

A couple of years ago, Michael J. Fox made a little low-budget movie called Teen Wolf. Then Michael J. Fox turned around and made a big-budget Spielberg-produced movie called Back to the Future.

The producers of Teen Wolf did a very smart thing. They put their movie on the shelf. Then, oh, about a month after Back to the Future became the smash hit of the summer of ’85, they released their little movie and made sure Michael J. Fox’s face was very, very big in the ads.

Smart. Teen Wolf caught the crest of Fox’s popularity, and made plenty of money in the few weeks before people found out it wasn’t a good movie. The next step you’ve already guessed: sequel.

Thus, Teen Wolf Too. Which begs the question: Was I Was a Teenage Werewolf ever this bad?

Wolf Too takes another TV star (surely you didn’t think Fox was coming back for the sequel?), this time Jason Bateman of “Valerie’s Family.” Bateman’s character is supposed to be a relative to Fox from the first film, and harbors the family legacy. Bateman goes to college, where he hopes his lycanthropic lineage will remain a secret.

For reasons that are never clear, he is recruited for the boxing team. And maybe it’s those repeated blows to the head, but the sweet science brings out the wolf in him. The wolf wins his boxing matches, and Bateman becomes the big dog on campus.

There’s a lesson here in the way Bateman’s success goes to his hirsute head; he forgets about his modest girlfriend and desire to be a veterinarian in order to howl with some swinging co-eds. The movie labors to teach this lesson.

Bateman makes an unremarkable presence. Kim Darby—remember the girl in True Grit?—pops up as a strange-looking science teacher. The only laughs in this grindingly unfunny movie come from Paul Sand, who does some deadpan work as the boxing coach.

One of the hallmarks of werewolf movies—a fine cinematic tradition, by the way, from Lon Chaney Jr. onward—is the transition from man to wolf. They used to show close-ups of the guy’s face as overlapping dissolves made his beard grow and his fangs lengthen. Then today’s special-effects wizards came up with gimmickry and prosthetic devices for more explicit transformations.

So what does Teen Wolf Too contribute to this? Zilch. We see the normal Bateman, cut away to something else, then cut back—boom! He’s hairy. This movie doesn’t even do the fun stuff right.

First published in the Herald, November 24, 1987

I know, easy target. Bateman has redeemed himself with his own wolfman-like transformation, from child-star has-been to in-demand comic goldmine. Good to remember Paul Sand, an original Second City member who made many a welcome cameo in movies and TV (and apparently still makes them) and had his own sitcom in the 1970s. Although I don’t actually remember him in this movie, nor anything else about it.