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).