FOOTAGE FETISHES: “WEIRD SCIENCE”

Hughes of the World

Unfortunately, no discussion of films from the plastic fantastic 1980s would be complete without mentioning the works of John Hughes. The man who many people identify most with the decade’s films has a lot to answer for: the rise of Judd Nelson, the popularity of Simple Minds, and the development of an annoyingly superficial adolescent taxonomy system that hundreds of thousands of deluded fans have taken to heart after their umpteenth viewing of “The Breakfast Club.”

Still, any guy who helped introduced Bill Paxton to the world can’t be all bad.

The aforementioned “Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” are Hughes’ best known directorial efforts of that era, though he wrote many more, including “Pretty in Pink” and the “Vacation” series. My extensive research, conducted under the most stringent scientific conditions at numerous bars and cockfight arenas across this great land, has determined that many people view his “Breakfast Club” as the quintessential ‘80s flick. For whatever reason, be it the novel casting of Anthony Michael Hall as a geek or saturation scheduling on TNT every Saturday, audiences are drawn to its timeless message of: “Boy, being a teenager sure does suck, doesn’t it?” How can anyone get tired of adolescents bemoaning their dreary lives?

NOTE: I was in high school when “Breakfast Club” was released, lest anyone think I’m too young/old/sexy to properly appreciate its genius. I was just as critical of it then…only being a teenager I was a lot more profane.

I don’t have anything against “Sixteen Candles,” I just don’t find a lot in it to which I can relate (though I was once engaged to an oily bohunk). Same with “Pretty in Pink.” No, for me the John Hughes movie that will always embody the nonsensical whimsy of the ‘80s is “Weird Science.”

“I want her to…Aerobicise.”

The problem with many Hughes movies of the early ‘80s is that they tend to blur the line between romantic teen comedy and implausible goofiness. “Sixteen Candles” probably juggles the two better than any, while “Breakfast Club” takes place in some Bizzaro dimension where high school athletes get detention and Judd Nelson is actually taken seriously as an actor. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” almost – but not quite – veers off the cliff into outrageousness, but it’s “Weird Science” that unabashedly embraces the ridiculous. Part coming-of-age saga, part “Frankenstein Conquers Shermer, Illinos,” “Weird Science” plays hard for laughs while mercifully sparing us most of the introspection and hand-wringing found in Hughes’ other works.

Garry (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are your typical high school dorks: unfairly tormented by the popular kids, hormonal to a dangerous degree, and skilled enough with a Memotech computer to hack into top secret installations (in 1985, no less). One lonely evening, they decide to kill some time by designing and building a flesh and blood woman using an archaic vector graphic breast-drawing program, alligator clips, and a Barbie doll. A few judicious lightning strikes later, and Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) is born.

This being a PG movie, the first act Garry and Wyatt choose to perform with their new friend is a fairly innocent shower (Lisa’s naked, they both wear jeans). Sensing the two could use a little excitement, Lisa accompanies them to a seedy bar, where they develop an instant appreciation for bourbon, cigars, and talking like old black men. Garry gets stinking drunk, but finds camaraderie with the regulars over the story of the little “8th grade bitch” who broke his heart (and more) years before. The three make their way back to Wyatt’s house, where they have their first memorable encounter with Wyatt’s brother Chet, played to obnoxious perfection by Bill Paxton.

The story continues in part two of FOOTAGE FETISHES: “WEIRD SCIENCE”>>>




Posted on February 11, 2004 in Features by

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