Teen Wolf (Blu-ray)
Directed by Rod Daniel
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 92 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Review Date: March 30, 2011
Abbott and Costello had lots of fun coming into contact with various Universal monsters in a series of horror farces beginning with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Too bad some of that considerable humor and charm couldn’t have been siphoned off for Rod Daniel’s Teen Wolf, a rather tedious werewolf teen comedy whose sole virtue is its star, the young and very talented Michael J. Fox. Everyone and everything else about this feeble comedy is lackluster from the teen pals and the girls he’s friends with to the unimaginative comic set-ups that lead to one of the most predictable and unsatisfying championship basketball games in recent memory.
Teen athlete Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) begins having strange sensations both on and off the basketball court, from a rushing in his ears to heart palpitations, long stray hairs sprouting and disappearing at random, and ears, teeth, and fingernails extending at odd moments. When he finally gets home and looks in his bathroom mirror, he sees himself as a full-fledged werewolf, a little genetic family fact his father (James Hampton), also a werewolf, had neglected to warn him of its possibility. During a basketball game, Scott’s passion about winning prompts his transformation into a full-fledged werewolf, one who miraculously can play basketball like a pro. Instead of being horrified, the fans are overjoyed that they now have a star player who can actually win games for the school, and very quickly Scott becomes the most popular boy on campus. His new popularity, however, doesn’t get him very far with the girl of his dreams Pamela Welles (Lorie Griffin), but gal pal ‘Boof’ (Susan Ursitti) and buddy Stiles (Jerry Levine) remain friends no matter which incarnation Scott chooses to use at school though they, like the rest of the student body, find the wolf persona infinitely cooler than the human one.
Joseph Loeb III and Matthew Weisman’s screenplay doesn’t offer any explanation about the origins of the Howard family curse nor do they bother to explain how Scott can turn on and off his werewolf persona either during the day or night. Their romances for Scott are uninvolving as well, not helped by the two mediocre actresses who play the girls (there’s a studly rival at school for the girl Scott’s really interested in, and yet he ends up nonsensically playing on the opposite team for the climactic game). The lengthy set pieces like a beer party or the endless basketball game finale (done in montage) are ploddingly staged by director Rod Daniel who doesn’t seem to have much of a flair for comedy. And the film is sloppily assembled, too. There are continuity gaffes (Fox closes his school locker in one shot and when we go out to a wider angle, the locker is open), and looping of dialogue often doesn’t match at all what the actors’ lips are saying. And the cast is in many ways one of the film’s great liabilities. In fact, the younger cast members (apart from the star) who have to provide a lion’s share of the comedy are rather inept at the physical stuff and don’t have a way with dialogue either. Of course, what they’re given to say is pretty witless, so it’s a lose-lose situation all around for them.
But Michael J. Fox, hot off of his big success in Back to the Future, proves that his ease with lines and physical business was no fluke turning in the only truly interesting performance in the movie among the younger actors. His most outstanding moment in the film, however, doesn’t involve the rather dreadful werewolf make-up they’ve caked on him but a much earlier scene when he bolts from his classroom feeling a spell coming over him and skitters down a slippery school hallway on the way to the bathroom. His frantic slipping and sliding body language down endless corridors attempting to find a boys’ restroom is comic gold and the high spot of the movie. Other scenes with him in werewolf regalia ruling the basketball court despite his tiny stature are likewise endearing. Of the adults in the cast, Jay Tarses as the world’s most uninvolved coach is a treat as he dispenses bad advice or worse yet no advice contrary to almost every movie trainer in the history of cinema, a nicely ironic touch in a screenplay that could have used a few more fresh ideas.
The film has been framed at its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Everything about this transfer is fairly good but none of it is outstanding. Color saturation levels are fine, and flesh tones are realistic, but black levels are mediocre. Worse, sharpness is never what it could be, and some shots are very soft as if the focus puller was asleep at the switch. There are dust specks to be seen throughout, but they aren’t a major concern. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is surprisingly full and contains no aural artifacts such as hiss or crackle. There’s very good fidelity, too, with the healthy dose of pop music that dots the soundtrack and some impressive bass in the sound mix. Miles Goodman wrote a score for the film that is less interesting, however. Dialogue is cleanly recorded though the use of ADR is very frequent and quite noticeable and sometimes jarring in its uneasy fit with the direct recordings.
A sneak preview of the new Teen Wolf television series on MTV, coming in 2011, seems to suggest a suspense show rather than a comedy. It runs 2 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
The film’s theatrical trailer is in very poor shape, but it is presented in 1080p and runs for 1 ¾ minutes.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Teen Wolf must have been sold on its title and its star alone because the script is woefully lacking in charm and inventiveness. The Blu-ray release is slightly above average in look and sound with very little in the way of bonus features to recommend the set.