The B-Movie Isle: Scream Factory’s Teen Wolf & Teen Wolf Too (Collector’s Edition)
The B-Movie Isle take a look at the most 80’s movies of 80’s movies that ever did 80’s movies; Teen Wolf and its “sequel” Teen Wolf Too. The films are being released in beautifully designed matching Blu-Ray collector’s editions by Scream Factory. Do these films still hold up as the great pop entertainment? Are they dragged down by three decades? Is the basketball any good? All these questions and more will be answered as you read on…
In the pantheon of 80’s high school films Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too occupy a very strange space. The films are part genre, part sports film, part comedy, part romance and all High School (College for the sequel). This weird crockpot mixture works well as long as you don’t look too hard (instead of his lycanthropy being tied to the lunar cycle he can turn at will is one of the stranger aspects they changed willy-nilly). That being said, there is an infectious energy to both films that cannot be denied.
Teen Wolf has a secret weapon that Teen Wolf Too doesn’t; Michael J. Fox. Fox as Scott Howard shows off his particular brand of charm. It’s no wonder that Fox and Back to the Future was such as smash hit, he’s a star in the making. The camera loves Fox from the opening moments. Director Rob Daniel smartly starts the film on Fox’s tied visage and also basically ends the film with this very shot. It draws you into this world.
In a few minutes Teen Wolf manages to tell you everything you need to know about Howard and his life. He plays basketball, he’s terrible at basketball, on a terrible Varsity team, and he’s a geek that pines after someone he can’t have. It’s the classic Hughes-ian setup, except with a teenager who’s a wolf. The film plays like the classic high school hubris story. Scott gets his “powers” becomes famous, become an a-hole to his friends, learns that he’s more than his powers… faces off against the bully-ish preppy. Wins the day, the final game and the right girl. Cue Music. Freeze frame on victorious faces of the basketball team. Viola!
Much of the film rests on Fox’s shoulders and he carries every inch of the film through to its end. Even as Fox surfs atop a van while the Beach Boys “Surfin’ USA” plays, Fox commits to in a way that this goofy moment becomes an exercise in joy. Fox brings that to the entire enterprise; joy. Part of the brilliance of Teen Wolf is Scott isn’t tortured by the powers. He thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world. His joy is infectious to every part of the film. We like him as both the Wolf and as Scott. The audience wants to root for him and by the end you can’t help but be charmed by the film and look beyond its deficiencies.
Everything Teen Wolf gets right; Teen Wolf Too gets very wrong. With a few hits under his belt, leaving his TV series behind, Fox had no need for a sequel to a comedy about a werewolf (a time traveling teen… that’s another story all together, especially if Uncle Stevie decrees it). Our Fox substitute is Jason Bateman (who also happened to be the Producer’s son) who place Scott Howard’s cousin Todd Howard. Instead of High School its college, instead of basketball it’s boxing. Like the original the film rests on the shoulders of its young star. Rather than being able to shoulder this with charm and wit, the film (partially) sinks.
Bateman had the unfortunate job of trying to recapture the same sort of goodwill that Michael J Fox had two years prior. Bateman (or anyone for that matter) could not fill those vacant shoes. Everything about Todd is wrong headed, Bateman’s specific brand of charm does not fit in the same manner that Fox did. Bateman’s always been a bit more condescending even in the most sincere roles. Any of the joy of being Teen Wolf just looks perfunctory in the sequel.
It does not help that Stiles reappears and is not played with swarmy charm by Jerry Levine. Everything with Stiles falls flat; in fact the predicament is all Stiles fault. There is no charm in Stuart Franklin’s performance. Stiles is all mullet and nothing else. The film literally knows nothing about boxing nor does it care. It feels like everything the film learned about boxing is from Mike Tyson’s Punch-out. At least the first film has a perfunctory knowledge base of basketball (albeit very rudimentary). Teen Wolf Too approaches boxing like it’s a light untaxing sport for three fourths of its running time and only during the last half does it care about any sort of semi-reality. These wrongheaded moves almost all but ruin Teen Wolf Too.
The film once it hits its third act really finds its footing and hums. It just takes over an hour to get to that point. Most of the first two thirds of the film is spent doing exactly what the first one did but with zero amount of the charm of the fist. Todd gets powers. Todd is good at sports. Todd gets the wrong girl. Todd becomes an a-hole. Todd learns his lesson. Todd wins the sport event against the bully-ish preppy and gets the right girl. That in lies the problem, along with the fact that it’s a carbon copy that plays literally the same jokes. It feels exactly what it is; a crass cash in. That being said, once it finds its footing it becomes a crass cash in that does work. There is a dopey Rocky IV like blunt force trauma style fun in the final thirty minutes.
Together these two films make a perfect counter point of charming original and wrong-headed sequel that make a fascinating double feature.
The two films look beautifully rendered on Blu-Ray. The transfers for each are impressive though Teen Wolf Too may have a slighter edge because the production was a bigger one. Teen Wolf still looks good albeit a bit worn, that could be more because of the lower budget nature of the production. The original does look better than it has on any previous edition. The film’s transfer is darker than expected but it looks like that’s the original negative more than a problem with the transfer. The image is razor sharp and clean in a way that shows off the dust and specks that’s a problem with the negative more than anything else. The original DVD release was not the best transfer. The sequel looks almost perfect, having a transfer that’s razor sharp and free of any blemishes or specks.
Teen Wolf Bonus Features:
- Never. Say. Die. The Story Of Teen Wolf – A Comprehensive Documentary About The Making And Legacy Of The Film, Including Brand-new Interviews With The Cast And Crew
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery
Teen Wolf Too Bonus Features:
- Working With The Wolf – An Interview With Director Christopher Leitch
- Otherworldly – An Interview With Co-star Kim Darby
- A Man of Great ‘Stiles’ – An Interview With Co-star Stuart Fratkin
- Nerdy Girl Saves the Day – An Interview With Co-star Estee Chandler
- A Wolf In ‘80s Clothing – A Look At The Wardrobe Of Teen Wolf Too With Costume Designer Heidi Kaczenski
- Still Gallery
The sole extra on Teen Wolf’s is an amazing two and half hour long retrospective documentary. Yes, a two and half hour documentary. From the ground up this doc details everything and anything one would like to know about the film’s development, pre-production, production and beyond. Just about everyone shows up for the doc (albeit one particular person is notably absent). It’s a wonderfully entertaining piece that is as fun as the movie itself.
The five featurettes on the Teen Wolf Too disc amount to well over an hour of content that pretty ably rounds out everything you could want to know about the making of the sequel. Director Leitch and actress Darby are by far the best interviews both bringing an honest about the sequel that’s refreshing.
The Bottom Shelf
The long and the short of it is that Teen Wolf is great stuff. Unique high school movie that’s strange and entertaining in equal measure. Grounded by a star performance by Michael J. Fox. Teen Wolf Too is for hardcore fans only (the ones that love the animated series). Michael J. Fox will always beat Jason Bateman. Bateman could never nor never will fill Fox’s shoes. The sequel though having issues is a certain amount of fun. All in all you can’t go wrong with these charming silly films. Cook the jiffy pop, pour a glass of Dr. Pepper (if you’re an adult spike that with some Maker’s Mark, trust me) and relax because this flashback double feature is RECOMMENDED!