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Teen Wolf Too - John C. Kirk

May. 27th, 2006

11:55 pm - Teen Wolf Too

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I've just been watching Teen Wolf Too on the SciFi channel, as part of their 80s weekend. I must admit, I wasn't expecting it to be particularly good, but I was curious to see what they'd make of it. (Ditto for Mannequin on the move actually, since I have the original on DVD but I've never seen the sequel; sadly it's not on Amazon's DVD rental list.) Anyway, it was watchable, but basically a rehash of the first film. In case you're curious, the connection is that Todd (the lead character in this film) is the cousin of Scott (Michael J. Fox's character in the first film). It also reminded me a lot of the South Park episode "Ass-pen", particularly their song about "If you need to learn something, and you haven't got much time, you need a montage!"

What's interesting is that I think they could have made this film a lot better.

As I said, this film basically followed the same formula as the original one: the guy starts out at university as a bit of a loser (being pushed around/ignored by the "cool kids"), gets a lot more self-confident when he turns into a werewolf, finds out that people only like him as the wolf and that the rest of his teammates (boxing in this film rather than basketball) are getting fed up of him hogging the limelight, then decides to face the big sporting challenge as himself and as part of a team.

That said, there are also a few subtle differences. His first wolf transformation (about half an hour into the film) took place in public, but it neither impressed nor intimidated anyone watching. Instead, there was a general feeling of revulsion ("I was dancing with a dog?!"), and after that he gets people sticking "No dogs allowed" signs on his door, leaving dog bowls outside his room, etc. I think that they could have made more of this, where people don't treat the werewolf aspect as a gift or a curse, just as an embarrassing condition to be mocked (like a stutter).

Another subplot involved the protagonist having a choice of girlfriends. I think this was copied from the first film, but it's pretty much a staple of the genre (cf "the pretty ugly girl" in Not Another Teen Movie). Basically, there's the geeky girl who he hits it off with early on (who has glasses), and then the ostensibly attractive girls (lots of makeup) who he hangs out with later in wolf-mode. The basic premise here was that the cheerleader types only liked him as a wolf, and wouldn't accept him as "the old Todd". However, I do wonder how much the lab girl fell into the opposite trap, by only accepting him as he used to be? In fairness, she did say early on (when he was getting teased about "being a dog") that it was a problem they could work on together, but I think it would have been interesting to see how they'd handle it if she couldn't come to terms with that aspect of him.

Speaking of aspects, this film also blurred the boundaries a bit, which I think they could have investigated further, i.e. it wasn't a straight case of "wolf bad, human good". Once Todd became more assertive, he was pretty obnoxious in human form, while his uncle was still calm and reasonable in wolf form. Actually, his science professor seemed to have handled it best - she could channel the wolf when needed, but didn't let it interfere with her normal life.

A related idea which I did like was after Todd had seen the error of his ways, and went around apologising to his friends. More specifically, he accepted responsibility for making the mistake himself, rather than blaming it on being a wolf. (As his uncle said, "You're only human".) That reminded me of a scene in A Civil Campaign, where Miles writes a letter of apology to someone, and his father tells him that it's not a question of whether this will work - he should apologise because he's genuinely sorry, not because he wants to get something out of it. Looking back on my own life, there have been some times when I've screwed up (hurting friends in the process), and we haven't reconciled afterwards. In hindsight, I think that's fair enough - I've learnt from those mistakes, and I won't repeat them with other people, but I don't blame my former friends for moving on.

Coming back to the film, I think that the main flaw is that the turning point didn't ring true. As I recall from the first film, Scott got everything that he thought he wanted, but found that it was a hollow victory, turning to ashes in his mouth, so he went back to re-establish his priorities. In this film, he was dumped by the "hot girls" at golf course when they went off with someone who was even more of an arsehole than he was. He then went back to his old friends but they were busy revising for their exams so they didn't want to hang out with him. The thing is, the film had previously established that he was turning into a bully, e.g. by driving along in his sports car and nudging the back wheel of the bicycle in front. So, it seems unlikely that he'd think "Wow, I need to become a wimp again" - it seems more likely that he'd think "Screw those guys, I don't need them, I just need to rip the arms off my rival and win the women back." It would have made quite a different film, but I think that could be an interesting one, to see how someone can be corrupted by power.

The ending of the film involves him boxing in human form, and winning the fight. While I like the idea of saying "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game that counts", it would be nice to see a film that actually follows through on that by ending in defeat. The Mighty Ducks has a similar scene at the end, where one of the kids has to take a penalty shot to decide who wins the ice hockey game, and the coach deliberately plays down the stress by saying "Hey, give it your best shot, but don't worry if you miss." I suppose the counterexamples would be Cool Runnings, and the DS9 episode Take Me Out to the Holosuite.

So there you go; probably more analysis than this film deserves, but I like to keep my hand in at lit. crit.

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