On Aug. 23, 1985, Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf took the court, going on to gross $33 million in late summer and becoming a film and TV franchise. The Hollywood Reporter‘s original review is below.
Sports, puberty and werewolves merge in plotform in Teen Wolf, this week’s high-concept offering. A snappy title plus Michael J. Fox in the starring role may lure some first weekenders to this Atlantic Releasing release, but come September the film is likely to be a forgotten summer memory. The good-humored, however bland, nature of Teen Wolf nonetheless makes it an appealing prospect as an after-school TV presentation.
Fox stars as an average kid in your average town, but he’s not having average adolescent problems: his eyes sometimes glow red in the dark, his ears itch and he starts to snarl. He’s got an inclination it’s more than hormonal, and then one afternoon while he’s scrapping a loose ball for his high school basketball team, he emerges as a wolf man. He’s got massive shoulders, a wolf-like head and more body hair than Lyle Alzado. Not surprisingly, Fox begins to dominate games and his team begins to win. For the first time in his life, the low-profile Fox gets recognition. He’s no longer on the sideline of high school life.
While scriptwriters Joseph Loeb III and Michael Rosenblatt have interlaced Teen Wolf with some mild teen identity questions regarding Fox and his self-image, the film is ultimately bland and inane. Chief personal struggle involves Fox reconciling the worth of his gentle yet unstarlike self with the more exciting persona of the wolf aspect of him.
Naturally it’s more fun to be the wolf, stuffing baskets, felling bullies and dating his blonde dreamgirl (Lorie Griffin). But the sensitive Fox also recognizes the crude and ultimately boorish side to his wolf character. Will he opt for the nice-guy, non-flamboyant part of his character or will he go with the rough-tough, killer-competitor side of his nature? And, sports and movie fans, will the Beacontown Beavers win the big game? Those are the big questions that loom herein.
To his credit, director Rod Daniel has crafted an amiable teen film and gets a pleasing performance from Fox in the title role. Yet Teen Wolf, especially in the basketball sequences, loses its dramatic dribble. Surely anyone who does not recall who won last year’s NCAA basketball tournament will complain that the film has overly long and largely unexciting basketball sequences. Even though the game situations involving the wolf has some entertaining Flubber-like stuff shots, the wolf’s basketball moves are decidedly to the short side of Michael Jordan.
Indeed, as a basketballer the wolf is not all that amazing. With his long hair, flowing beard and omnipresent headband, one recalls Bill Walton during his Portland Trailblazer days. In short, the sequences are not super enough.
Technical credits are routine, but in themselves cannot make this basically unexciting film any more exciting than a delay-style, run-down-the-clock basketball game. — Duane Byrge, originally published on August 21, 1985