'SCIENCE' FULFILLS TEEN-AGE DREAMS|
By SHEILA BENSON, Times Film Critic
"Weird Science" (citywide) is every oppressed, overheated
15-year-old boy's dream. Having trouble with girls? Build
your own. Got a repressive older brother? Get that turkey
good -- make him eat his toenail parings, show him who's
boss. Parents loomin' a little large? Off with them. Bring
your entire high school class over and let's paaaarty.
Forty-seventh, or so it seems, in writer-director John
Hughes' illustrated teen-age daydreams, "Weird Science"
divides its audience irrevocably: This time it's truly them
or us. The crossover audience is maybe the 16-year-olds, if
they aren't yet
Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith play the pair of
high school misfits who conjure up an ideal woman one night
on Mitchell-Smith's computer. (No previous successful movie
dealing with teen-agers, computers or sudden fantastic
appearances goes unplundered in this sequence.) The boys get
lucky beyond belief: She's Kelly LeBrock -- cool, amused,
experienced -- and she simply wants to hang out with them.
Adolescent boys have been given safe passage across their
awkward days of innocence by kindly disposed "older" women
for eons. It's not even a phenomenon restricted to Europe.
But here behind the Hughes-erected Clearasil curtain, in the
never-never never land of American movie teen-agers, a live
woman would never do. She might require too much -- intimacy,
real responses, a sense of possible loss.
So: a computer-built dream woman with magical powers who can
teach them self-confidence without involvement, who can call
up Ferraris with a nod of her lovely head and who can
vanquish parents and grandparents faster than a writer's
Are there tablets somewhere, incised with a list of Hughes'
Musts, some quorum of which must fill every one of his
pictures? The racially offensive character or sequence. The
hated adult brought to heel. The complete trashing of the
family house by hordes of kids who wanna have fun. The
wriggling joy of gross-out language. The controlling but
wimpy parents, born only to go away on long weekends.
Hughes knows the territory intimately, every millimeter of
this febrile bog. He should -- he's its land baron. But the
property's slipping downward: The scene at the black jazz
club in which a blotto Hall tries to be cool is insulting and
loathsome. It can't be excused by pointing out that the kid
is a nerd and this is supposed to be obnoxious behavior. To
the target audience for the movie, Hall (who will eventually
triumph) is the role model supreme.
After all, in this dream of the Worm's Turning, he will quell
an invasion by Mad-Max-killer-mutant bikers and prevail (with
LeBrock's powers) over his foul-mouthed, paramilitary-school
The film's greatest asset is Kelly LeBrock, who is
triumphant. She may represent souped-up womanhood at its most
fanciful but she does so with great warmth and a sharp sense
of herself. (To Hughes' credit, he lets his two Galleria
girls -- who will find their way to the boys' sides -- react
to her generously, as well they might.)
In "Sixteen Candles," Anthony Michael Hall had an honest
sweetness, which is becoming slightly more calculated. (Now
it's Mitchell-Smith who seems to have that purity.) Hall is
outgrowing the role, for one thing. He should be let out of
the playpen to grow up on screen; he doesn't need to hold the
patent on the bratty bright kid.
Perhaps some bright studio executive could put up a sign:
Played Out, over the whole vein of teen-age-only movies and
begin to make movies that speak to all of us again.
A Universal release of a Hughes/Silver production. Producer
Joel Silver. Director, screenplay John Hughes. Associate
producer Jane Vickerilla. Camera Matthew F. Leonetti.
Production design John W. Corso. Editors Mark Warner,
Christopher Lebenzon, Scott Wallace. Music Ira Newborn.
Costumes Marilyn Vance. Supervising sound editor Stephen
Hunter Flick. With Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Ilan
Mitchell-Smith, Bill Paxton, Suzanne Snyder, Judi Aronson,
Robert Downey, Robert Rousellier.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.
MPAA-rated: PG-13 (parents are strongly cautioned to give
special guidance for attendance of children under 13).