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Weird Science


‘…Hughes drills down on a simple, relatable theme; make the best of what you have while you have it….’

Weird Science is the black sheep of the John Hughes canon; it’s not adored as his small-scale dramas about teenage life are, so doesn’t take a place alongside Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink. Equally, it’s not quite of a piece with genial comedies like Home Alone or Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Weird Science takes inspiration from the Frankenstein pop culture figure, and it’s a fantasy film, not a genre that Hughes is known for. But like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there’s a moralistic core here in which teenagers are taught a valuable life-lesson by a more seasoned character, and despite some sexism and homophobia, Weird Science feels better now than it did in 1985.

Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith play social outcasts Gary and Wyatt, introduced having their shorts pulled down by school-bullies in front of laughing girls. But Gary and Wyatt are smart cookies, and decide to resolve their lack of experience with women by creating one of their own. Played by 1985’s gal du jour Kelly LeBrock, Lisa showers with the boys, takes them to non-age appropriate parties, and eventually helps them stage a riotous assembly in their own house. The dream come true turns into a nightmare when the party gets out of hand, leading to a Risky Business-lite finale in which the boys have to get the house back together before their parents return.

Not everything works in Weird Science; the juvenile, sex-obsessed premise is junked almost immediately in favour of an educational theme, and the story is very much of the shaggy dog variety. But the compensations are plentiful; Robert Downey Jr is a great villain, Bill Paxton steals the show as military school brother Chet, and there’s agreeable cameo from cult favourites Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) and Vernon Wells from Mad Max 2.

“Can we not say anything about all this? I have a teaching job I don’t want to lose’ says Berryman’s thug-on-the-retreat, but Weird Science is really all about the learning. Lisa teaches the boys to stand up to bullies, and to be themselves; Hughes was fairly consistant in his messaging over a dozen films, and even if the events here are outlandish, from Chet being turned into an alien to the nuclear missile in Gary’s bedroom, Hughes drills down on a simple, relatable theme; make the best of what you have while you have it. This is on the BBC iplayer for some reason right now (July 2021).


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  1. John Hughes! Well, of course. iPlayer has a surprising amount of (decent) films on it, and this one may be watched, despite me and Brian being in the top echelon of criticism.

  2. Frankenstein as a dolly bird never seemed an acceptable angle even back in the day so I’m glad to hear the expectant lecherosity has taken a back seat to “education.” Obviously, the only mistake this Professor Kelly LeBrock made was wearing the wrong colour dress but she soon worked out red is the colour.

    • This is on the iPlayer right now, and even for those on the top echelon of criticism like yourself, it’s worth a watch for the cast, and the novel premise.

      • It seems much less well known than the movie. I remember it being saddled with an awful Friday night time slot in the US, but it caught me at the perfect time between being old enough to appreciate a teen comedy but not yet actually going out on a Friday night.

        The concept benefited from the show format. Lots of room to play with the possibilities of Lisa’s magic without one idea crowding another. Vanessa Angel is even hotter than Kelly LeBrock and is funnier with better stage presence. Lee Tergesen’s portrayal of Chet exceeds Paxton’s, as good as it was. And it benefits from cutting out even more sex, making Lisa’s relationship with the boys entirely platonic (Wyatt insisted she be programmed with high morals).

        • That platonic notion feels like a strength; bait and switch, sure, but in a healthy way. This sounds worth my time, thanks for the rundown!

    • Yup, saw this when I was at school, video hidden in a gym bag. Seems something of a shock to find it on the iplayer now, either the times change or I have….

  3. I actually found it quite painful when I reviewed it after Bill Paxton died (and not because of Paxton). You are right that he totally steals the movie though, but for teenage boys angst as it’s most painful I have to say I think The Inbetweeners (British version) nails it every time.

    • I’m in the same boat. This looks like it has potential to be a really crass film, but actually has a more seasoned head on its shoulders….

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