Home Video Hovel: Teen Wolf/Teen Wolf Too, by David Bax
1985’s Teen Wolf is hardly the schlocky teensploitation flick its title suggests. More than anything else, in fact, it’s a sports movie. That’s just one of the twists Rod Daniel’s film employs, none of them with any notable success. In fact, the movie’s most novel conceit is also the thing that makes it so stupid; when Scott (Michael J. Fox) starts spontaneously turning into a werewolf, he becomes the most popular kid in school. This is due largely to lycanthropism’s well-documented effect of making one better at basketball.
Fox’s natural charms are undeniable and he goes a long way toward rooting Scott’s petty desire for acceptance and shallow fixation on the “hot” girl (Lorie Griffin) in some kind of reality. Less real but emblematic of the times is Jerry Levine’s Stiles, the type of best friend character you saw a lot of in the 1980s who is not exactly cool or popular yet is preternaturally comfortable and outgoing in all ways. He’s the life of the party he wasn’t invited to. Unfortunately, he’s also quick with a casual homophobic slur. It’s tempting to say, in the parlance of our time, that Teen Wolf is “problematic.” It’s not, though. It’s just stupid. And homophobic.
1987’s college-set follow-up, Teen Wolf Too, at least avoids that offense but it’s still pretty stupid. Scott is replaced by Todd (Jason Bateman, a child TV star making his feature film debut), Scott’s cousin. Stiles returns but is recast with Stuart Fratkin. Returning are James Hampton as Scott’s dad/Todd’s uncle–a fellow werewolf whose paternalistic/avuncular presence is the sweetest and most empathetic thing in both movies–and Mark Holton as Chubby, the imaginatively nicknamed basketball teammate of Scott’s who, like the franchise, switches sports to join the college’s boxing squad.
Other than that, though, the plot of Teen Wolf Too is almost identical to that of its predecessor. There’s the sudden surge in popularity that goes to the protagonist’s head, the nerdy love interest (Estee Chandler) whose affections go unnoticed until the protagonist learns to accept himself for who he is, and the climactic triumph of athletic prowess with the protagonist in human form. The best change, though, is the decision to replace Teen Wolf‘s jock antagonist (Mark Arnold) with a dean who is inexplicably obsessed with his school’s reputation for boxing, played by one of the most welcome character actors of all time, Gomez Addams himself, John Astin. He’s great but the movie is still asinine. It’s tempting to look at the casting changes as an indication that this sequel is the lesser movie. But how much lesser can you be when you’re starting from such a stupid place to begin with?
For whatever faults the franchise holds, I can happily say of these Shout! Factory releases that there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to picture and sound. The 2K scans—presumably for both, although only Teen Wolf contains specifics—are rich in color and clarity. The stereo sound is great, especially with so many songs on the soundtrack.
Special features on Teen Wolf include a nearly two and a half hour documentary on the making and legacy of the film. It bills itself as comprehensive and that runtime would suggest they mean it. Teen Wolf Too actually has more individual features, including interviews with Fratkin, Chandler, co-star Kim Darby and director Christopher Leitch, as well as a featurette on the costumes including costume designer Heidi Kaczenski.