Monday, 2 November 2009

John Hughes: The brat pack films that defined an era- part four: WEIRD SCIENCE

My series of articles on the mid-eighties films of John Hughes continues!

Weird Science was my first exposure to John Hughes' teen films. I'd seen the non-brat pack comedies before seeing this, but it was definitely Weird Science that changed everything for me, way back when. Here was a film about geeks who were constantly bullied while getting nowhere with ladies.

It was my teenage years in film form, well, minus the computer-created lady of course. Gary and Wyatt were the movie embodiment of my tortured teenage self. Woefully shy and nervous, yet desperate to be involved with the whole teenage thing. I'm actually kinda glad it was that way though, judging from how some of the other people I was at school and college with have turned out.

So then, onto Weird Science. The film follows the two aforementioned nerds, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), two woefully unpopular boys who are desperate to get girlfriends and some popularity. Their nemeses are played by Robert Downey Jr and Robert Rustler, along with Wyatt's irritating and violent brother, played with great glee by Bill Paxton.

Life isn't going too well for Gary and Wyatt, and ever more desperate to learn how to pick up girls, they decide to simulate one on Wyatt's computer. They hook it up to all manner of supercomputers and BOOM- a bizarre reaction causes the computerized lady to become real, and she appears in a doorway in Wyatt's bedroom clad in very little. Thus their adventure of self discovery begins!

Legend has it that Weird Science was written by Hughes in just three days, and it does have something of a stream-of-conciousness feel to it in some places, especially the mental final act when the post-apocalyptic freaks appear in Wyatt's family home and lay waste to it on motorbikes, or when Chet is transformed into a lump of poo, or the catatonic grandparents grinning spookily in a closet.

Far and away the strangest of John Hughes' famous eighties films, Weird Science holds a special place in the hearts of many people who could always relate to Gary and Wyatt, or people who just wanted to be able to generate their own Kelly Le Brock in a little pair of pants. After all, people can be weird.

Kelly le Brock is great as Lisa, the product of the boys' computerized shenanigans. At first she is the smouldering beauty they always dreamed of, and then as the film progresses, her almost big sisterly characteristics are incredibly endearing. It must have been a blast to play the character of Lisa, I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to turn people into turds and have hair the size of a small planet?

Mixed in with all of the chaos and the bizarre set pieces is a typically John Hughes-style story of two misfits trying to figure out how this 'life' thing works, which is an element of the film that works really well. While the fashions and the effects have dated to a massive extent, the message is still powerful and the film is still just as lovable as it always was.

It is a much more light-hearted film than The Breakfast Club before it, which was a good move on Hughes' part, keeping his format fresh. It has the gloriously anarchic humour and bizarre situations that were the trademark touch of a John Hughes flick, and it most certainly earned its place as one of the most loved teen films of the mid eighties.

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