Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).
This month, we’re building the perfect woman with the Brat Pack.
Though the late John Hughes is remembered with glowing affection by plenty, his films have been subjected to claims of misogyny, racism, and homophobia over the last few decades. I figured they were unfair, clinging desperately to my memories of childhood favourites. Since growing out of adolescence (physically, if not mentally; and perhaps only barely physically), I revisited The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and found they mostly rise above those criticisms (mostly). It’s hard, however, to argue in defence of Weird Science, a severely dated and unpleasant comedy in which a grown woman continually offers sex to a couple of 15-year-old boys.
That grown woman, Lisa (Kelly LeBrock), is the invention of nerdlingers Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith). Having spent their day lusting over the female gymnasts at school – and shamed by bullies (Robert Rusler and … Robert Downey Jr.?) – they decide to create for themselves a girlfriend of their own; one that answers to their every whim. Inspired by a late-night screening of Frankenstein, and utilising hilariously improbable 80s technology that includes uploading pictures of Playboy models, Albert Einstein, and David Lee Roth into a supercomputer, the final product emerges from their bathroom in skimpy underpants and a cut-off shirt. “You control me,” the cheeky Lisa informs them. Oh boy.
LeBrock walks away from the movie unscathed, thanks to her knowing ability to transcend sex symbol status and take charge of every scene and scenario in chaotic manner. The same can’t be said of Hall and Mitchell-Smith, who reminded me more of the awful teenage protagonists in Project X than the realistic and deep-down-secretly-sweet heroes from Superbad.
Watching Weird Science again in the harsh light of my 20s was like catching up with an old friend who I had recalled as a raucous party animal, but was now clearly a shaky meth addict with no teeth. All that hold up are the theme song and Bill Paxton‘s wonderfully douchey performance as Wyatt’s brother Chet. I dare not dig out the TV show spin-off, for fear of ruining the mental image of that too.
Next week: Jess sets St. Elmo’s Fire.
Weird Science is available on DVD, and can be streamed via Quickflix WatchNow service.