FOOTAGE FETISHES: “WEIRD SCIENCE”

“The boozehounds return…what a joke.”
Up until “Weird Science,” it’s hard to say if Paxton’s most memorable role was that of the doomed punk in “The Terminator,” or the desperately earnest radio operator in Pat Benatar’s video for “Shadows of the Night.” As far as his ‘80s roles go, I can’t decide if I like Chet better than Hudson in “Aliens” (or Severen in “Near Dark,” for that matter). Whatever the case, Paxton owns this film as a big brother that not even a Menendez could love. Chet makes Wyatt’s life a living hell, which really isn’t that tough considering Paxton’s a repulsive 20-something jarhead and Ilan Mitchell-Smith is a puny future professor of medieval history.
No really. Look it up.
The best lines belong to Paxton, who has maybe 25 minutes of screen time. After he threatens the prodigal drunks on their return to the house, Chet disappears until the final act. Meanwhile, the improbable plot proceeds apace.
Lisa’s purpose is to obliquely show our duo that as long as they act like themselves and bring forth their inner confidence, they can accomplish everything they want – including scoring with Hilly and Deb, the girlfriends of their arch-nemeses: Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler). Logically, Lisa figures the best way to transform the boys 2 men is by magically procuring bitchin’ cars for them to drive and outfitting them in all the hippest togs (Lisa is not only a hot babe, but appears to be a sorceress\genie of some power). Because, as we all know, nothing builds strength of character and self-esteem like shiny material possessions. Good message for the youth.
Cars and clothes are all well and good, but they don’t protect you from someone dumping an Icee on you at the mall. Further coolness is required, and the decision is made to throw a big-ass bash at Wyatt’s house. His parents are conveniently out of town, and (as we all know) the best way to earn the respect of teenagers is by inviting them into your house and allowing them to destroy it. This is a favorite theme of John Hughes movies, and while I attended my fair share of underage binge fests (sorry, Mom), I confess I never experienced anything of the magnitude portrayed in teen movies. Vomiting was generally restricted to the backyard, and any guest drunk or unlucky enough to actually break something usually got their ass kicked.
And while I’m thinking about it, why do parents of high schoolers ever leave town in the first place? It isn’t like the movies are exaggerating some phenomenon that doesn’t occur very frequently in real life (adults and children switching bodies, a sympathetic Julia Roberts). Parents can’t help but know that their hormonal offspring are going to perform keg stands and impregnate each other…in their parents’ beds, for crying out loud.
At the very least, invite the grandparents down to stay with them.
“They’re gonna shit egg rolls.”
Anyway, they throw a party. Garry and Wyatt lock themselves in the bathroom, which is never a wise tactic in a house with dozens of teenage drunks and lots of potted plants. They’re coaxed out by Ian and Max, who want a crack at Lisa. Doing them one better, Garry and Wyatt decide to make another woman, only this time forgetting to hook up the doll. Various hilarious and deadly side effects result, including the appearance of a nuclear missile in the house and unwelcome arrival of a nasty biker gang, who crashes the party and threaten Hilly and Deb, the ladies fair.
This is why “Weird Science” belongs on a stratum somewhere above “The Breakfast Club” and all the others. Sure, the rest of John Hughes’ movies dabble in the far-fetched: Ferris Bueller’s inexplicable coolness (lest we forget the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horowitz was arrested for the same behavior Ferris exhibits: jumping on a float); any girl falling in love with Andrew McCarthy; the fact that The Geek (from “Sixteen Candle”), Brian Johnson (“Breakfast Club”), and Garry Wallace – all played by Anthony Michael Hall – all live in the same small town of Shermer and never cross paths with each other. Fine and dandy, but come on…“Weird Science” gives us Wez from “The Road Warrior” and Pluto from “The Hills Have Eyes!” A grand piano gets sucked up a chimney! Garry and Wyatt hook up with Deb and Hilly…and Deb is a man!
Okay, not really. Hilly’s a lot hotter, though.
“Weird Science” abandons almost all pretense of introspection in favor of amping the ludicrous quotient. The fact that we’re free from Hughes’ otherwise ham-handed and clichéd youth wisdom (including “Love can cross income boundaries,” and “Just pretty yourself up some and Emilio Estevez will make out with you”) is gravy at this point.
Some deride the fact that Garry and Wyatt end up with the girls, even when stripped of their cars and designer Chess King wardrobe. My theory, and the correct one, is that Ian and Max had the hots for each other all along, and just needed the opportunity to divest themselves of female companionship. Said opportunity is conveniently provided by Garry and Wyatt’s heroics, and Ian and Max are now free to coo over each other’s spiffy new wave haircuts.
You see, Mr. Hughes? You see how easy it is to get your message across when you don’t force it down our throats? You, Michael Bay, and Ron Howard should form your own support group.
Get the rest of the story in part three of FOOTAGE FETISHES: “WEIRD SCIENCE”>>>




Posted on February 12, 2004 in Features by
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