And before I get into the nitty gritty, I’m just gonna warn readers right up front: this is not going to be a love fest. I don’t do those, basically. I call it like I see ‘em. I think all storytellers have had some good films and some bad misfires, and Hughes is certainly no exception to that rule. I think it goes without saying that what he did well he did incredibly well; but that doesn’t excuse some of the insufferable laziness and bad comedy that crept into his cinematic career at some point. Why, it was almost as if something happened in the man’s life – and maybe it did – that forced his mind’s eye away from those incredible teen dramas and comedies that paved so much of the way in the early days of his filmmaking. It was like suddenly he wanted to break away from all of that seriousness and/or teen angst and truly find something to laugh about again. While I applaud anyone’s attempts to broaden the horizons a bit, I’d still suggest he went a bit too easily and conveniently into Wackyland, and I missed some of his more heartfelt attempts.
This is why I struggle with a feature that’s as ungrounded as is Weird Science (1985).
Most of its humor is quick and/or cheap and/or not really character-driven so much as it is situational, and – if I’m being painfully honest – it flirts with a subject matter that quite frankly most likely couldn’t be made today without there being some kind of cultural uproar. While I prefer the prescient way he explored adolescence with Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986), and Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987), Science did little more than pluck at some of the lowest hanging fruit imaginable; and it’s a fundamental weaker outing as a consequence.
Of course – like any comedy – it’s occasionally funny, pokes fun at prudes, and triumphantly rowdy in respectable measure. However, I can’t escape the fact that I think Hughes reached for something and missed rather gloriously. I don’t fault him in any respect; the film just isn’t one of my favorites, and I see it as a curious stumble at a time when he was easily hitting home runs almost every time at bat.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“Two high-school nerds use a computer program to literally create the perfect woman, who promptly turns their lives upside down.”
Well … as a happily married man, I’ll still attest that it doesn’t take much effort for the wifey to turn my life upside down. (It’s in a good way more often than not, so take comfort in that reality.) And if nothing else then I’d have to give writer/director Hughes credit for having the creativity and presence of mind to see that computers and the Internet were ultimately going to be a match made in Porn Heaven! So women have always been turning men’s lives upside down! I’ll stop short of layering any more accolades onto Weird Science at that point, though, because it’s a film that even back then just never did anything for me.
Now, hang on a second, haters, before you unload both barrels.
I’ve often maintained that humor is one of filmdom’s most difficult concepts. How many times have I reminded you that what I find funny isn’t necessarily what you’ll agree to and/or vice versa? Therein lies my biggest hurdle to get over in embracing Science: I just never quite found it funny. I loved the concept, and I think the film’s trinity of characters – Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, and Ilan Mitchell-Smith – all perform wonderfully, creating a loose ensemble that at times feels more like they’re riffing on one another as opposed to sticking hard-and-fast to a script. Of course, it isn’t unusual for ad libs to rule the day on the movie set, and maybe that’s the case. But I was honestly still a bit uncomfortable with the adult-woman essentially trying to ‘get it on’ but a couple of underaged boys (which they most definitely are), and I guess I just never cracked that nut. Bonus points are earned by the late Bill Paxton who turns in a very funny job of an older sibling who seeks to exploit his seniority at every chance. It’s a small role, indeed, but the impact defies categorization and deserves the extra mention.
Setting aside the moral quandary (which is difficult), I just saw nothing in here that rose beyond the level of the typical Saturday morning cartoon. Yes, the science of (cough cough) creating a woman in such a manner was far more Fantasy than it was reality; and given the fact that Virtual Reality hadn’t become a thing yet it’s hard to attribute any sense of realness to even the smallest proceeding here. When I can’t accept the world as defined, then I’m likely to struggle with the execution, no matter how stellar the performances become. Some of the bits – though saccharin – felt a bit mean-spirited (the way some cartoons do), and I’m never a fan of this for the sake of laughs. Call me old-fashioned, if you must.
Again, I don’t fault you for liking it.
Don’t fault me for passing it up.
Weird Science (1985) was produced by Universal Pictures. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the fine folks at Arrow Films. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights-and-sounds to this Ultra-HD Blu-ray were very, very good: the flick has a few sequences wherein there’s some obvious grain, but I didn’t find it distracting in the slightest. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? Wowza. Arrow Films never disappoints, and they’ve turned out another great collection, especially for the rabid fans of this property. There are three cuts – a theatrical version, an extended version, and an edited for television cut – along with about a half-dozen featurettes that consider its legacy, especially how it kinda/sorta doesn’t quite fit with the wider Hughes library of its day. Nicely done.
Alas … only Mildly Recommended.
I know, I know, I know. It isn’t all that often that I’m this far out of the mainstream assessment of a flick, especially one that many consider a (cough cough) highlight of 1980’s cinema … but sorry, folks. I’ve never really much liked Weird Science’s execution. Though I have no real gripes with a great many of its pieces – the cast is stellar, the effects work reasonably well for for era, and Kelly LeBrock remains one of the quintessential hot girls of that decade – it just doesn’t and never has worked for me. It’s far too much like a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life, and – yeah, you guessed it – I've never been a fan of those, either. In my mind, Science feels like a turning point – the reliable Hughes turned his back on relevant storytelling – and all of us are worse off in the aftermath.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arrow Films provided me with a complimentary copy of Weird Science (1985) by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.