"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 too fussy.
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 eraser.
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 older brother.
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.
'WEIRD SCIENCE' 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).