Teen Wolf (1985)

 
(i)

 

Cheesy '80s comedy still works thanks to Fox-y star.
  • Review Date: September 10, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

On the plus side, Scott worries about whether his elevated status as a wolf-boy is earned or not, and how this affects his relationships. He ends up imparting a message of self-actualization (without the hairy transformation) to his teammates. Reckless teen behavior includes a goal of alcohol-drinking, and boys dangerously "surfing" by standing on top of a moving van on the road (one even falls, but no injury); this is taken as a sign of strength and machismo.

Positive role models

While the leading man dives into premarital sex and other questionable behavior, Michael J. Fox invests his character with an innate likeability. Scott never uses his wolfish, predator side to go full Incredible-Hulk and hurt anyone (even when he’s bullied). Some adults (especially Scott’s dad) are okay folks; others are amusingly mean or foolish (a coach who pretends he can heroically mentor students through their issues but who really doesn’t want to hear any messy personal problems). Compared to the enmity and scorn heaped on parents and authority figures in other films of this era, the tone is quite mild. 

Violence

A few fistfights, with suggestions that Scott, as a wolf, could really hurt people if he really tried (but he doesn’t).

Sex

The main character has (offscreen) sex with a classmate; no nudity shown, but she strips to her underwear and removes her bra (shown from the back) in anticipation. Boys and girls acting flirty at a raucous party, including one guy shoving his face into a (willing) co-ed's bosom. Brief shot of girl and guy tied up and covered in shaving cream and little else in some sort of party game. Homosexual and “fag” references include a double-entendre joke about "coming out of the closet."

Language

"Bastard," "ball-buster," “dicknose,” “fag,” “damn.”

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Scenes in which the underage hero and his buddies conspire to try to get alcohol from a liquor store (including via robbery). Scott’s cool buddy has a “stash” of herbal-looking stuff in a plastic bag; you can guess what that’s supposed to be.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this popular teen comedy seems to endorse such boys-gone-wild stuff as underage drinking/drugging, reckless vehicle operation, and youthful sex, though such activities are mostly kept to the margins. Girls are briefly shown in bras and panties. There are references to homosexuality, including the pejorative “fag” tossed casually around, even by the nice-guy hero. Viewers hoping for more intensity are barking up the wrong werewolf movie; no real horror here. The sequel, Teen Wolf 2 (sometimes bundled on the same DVD) is much the same but doesn’t have the virtue of Michael J. Fox in the lead -- Jason Bateman played a cousin instead.

What's the story?

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox), teen son of a widowed hardware-store owner in a small town, tries hard to excel on his high school’s basketball team; he strives to obtain liquor so he can join the “cool kids” at their parties; he attempts to attract a pretty drama-club blonde (Scott overlooks that the dark-haired classmate he hangs out with is the right girl for him, a common situation in these sorts of movies). When he doesn’t succeed, he wonders if he’s too average. Then an inherited family curse strikes, and Scott becomes…a werewolf (though, in rudimentary long-hair makeup, actor Fox could easily be Teen Sasquatch or Teen Wookiee), transforming at will, any time of day or night, but not undergoing any violent personality changes, just some lupine superpowers. Surprisingly, being a werewolf makes Scott the most popular dude in school and the star of the basketball team -- but the honor comes with its own unexpected dilemmas.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Some horror-movie reference books don't even list TEEN WOLF, and no wonder. Michael J. Fox makes one of the least menacing monsters ever, in what is really a good-natured spoof of adolescent insecurities and image-consciousness in school, not Gothic shocks. True, the comedy verges on a being a one-joke situation; people are intrigued by “the Wolf,” try to profit off “the Wolf,” want to be pals with “the Wolf” -- anything but be frightened of him. And the less-than-conclusive ending leaves something to be desired.

But the filmmakers draw solid laughs out of the situation, and even a bit of thoughtfulness about Scott's predicament in going from being thoroughly mediocre to an unexpected Leader of the Pack. It wouldn't be half the movie it is without Michael J. Fox in the lead. The young actor, right off his hit performance in Back to the Future (though this was shot earlier) is tremendously appealing. Fox was not only the unpretentious sort any kid would want as a friend, he was also the type any parent would be proud to call a son, and that was a rare combo for young screen characters in the post-Porky's 1980s.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how filmmakers have used the idea of a youth becoming a werewolf or monster as a metaphor for puberty, raging hormones, and tumultuous maturation, classic depictions being I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Ginger Snaps, and The Company of Wolves. Ask teens if they relate to the idea.

  • Instead of all the students fearing/hating “the Wolf,” they like him even better than ordinary Scott Howard. Ask kids if they think this is really how their world works. Who are the most popular kids, and why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 23, 1985
DVD release date:August 27, 2002
Cast:Doug Savant, Michael J. Fox, Scott Paulin
Director:Rod Daniel
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Sports and martial arts, Friendship, High school, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:parental guidance

This review of Teen Wolf (1985) was written by

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Quality

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Parent of a 10 year old Written bymichelhays February 17, 2012
 

Offers opportunities for good conversations, but it's a lot more risque than I remembered

I was looking for a movie with a non-violent role model, and I remembered this one revolves around the main character choosing to walk away from his violent potential. Unfortunately, this moment is so subtle that most younger kids miss the point completely. That being said, there are a lot of positives here: for instance, the main character is afraid of the changes he's going through, and tries to hide them from his father - but eventually the father breaks through and he sees that talking to his parents was the right thing to do (a rare occurrence in teen movies.) I wasn't prepared for the wild party scene, where kids get drunk and are paired off in various highly-sexualized situations (two were stripped to their underwear, tied together, and covered with whipped cream.) Fortunately, the embarrassment of the affected characters so horrified my son that it made for a good talking point about wild parties and the effects of alcohol on good choices. In another scene, the head cheerleader takes off her clothes (you see her naked back) and it's implied she has sex with the main character. It's made clear that she did so solely to boost her popularity, and she treats him cruelly shortly afterwards. It's difficult to disentangle this behavior from the intended message, but it, again, led to a good conversation about people liking you for who you are and not what they can get out of you. In short, I would suggest that this movie accompany a conversation about behavior and consequences.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 9 and 11 year old Written byMom and movie lover September 26, 2009
 

Teens and up!

We were looking for family movies my husband and I remembered being fun. We _didn't_ remember all the really bad language in the movie and had to turn it off. Too much for our 9 & 11 year olds. Definitely for the teen set.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent Written by1st-Pebbles-the-cat May 31, 2012
 

NOT PG - More like PG-17

NOT PG like Netflix says it is. THIS MOVIE more like PG-17 - FYI. Wholly 'd*ck-nose' wolf man! This movie I thought was funny and entertaining and mostly clean in the 80's is totally inappropriate for my kids! When I was on Netflix, I saw the rating was PG, I put it in our Qeue, thinking my kids will find it funny, like Back to The Future or something. WRONG. Captain America is rated PG-13 and is WAY cleaner and appropriate than Teen Wolf, much to my shock. The early part of the movie is high school kids trying to figure out a way to buy a keg of beer for an unsupervised party that none of them are old enough to go to. Not great, but maybe we'll get passed that... NOT. The language is totally NOT PG! It is well into the PG-17 area. I remember this movie more like Back to the Future - but boy did I remember wrong! Plenty of conversations using the word d*ck as an adjective, verb, modifier, etc. One guy surfs on the roof of their van on the way to the party, and then when they get to the party, there are plenty of camera shots glamorizing teens lighting up cigarettes and other weed-like items, drinking beer or other cocktails, etc. More conversations using the the Lord's name along with dam, etc. Totally *NOT* PG. Too bad. It does have funny parts, but it is not as clean as I remember and all the things that make in too inappropriate for younger kids, don't actually add to the value of the movie at all. It would really be just as funny without them and or said in a different way. So, FYI parents of younger kids. If you're over 16, still a moderately funny movie. How can you not like Michael J. Fox anyway, right?
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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