Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Weird Science"

Yeah, I've been having a John Hughes week of sorts, having never seen his films until now. After watching five of them, I came to the rather unpopular opinion that, while not untalented, he is certainly an overrated filmmaker. And out of all 5 films I have seen, "Weird Science" is not only the worst (in fact, it is one of the worst films I have ever seen) but it is also the one that cumulates just about every problem I have with his films, including his best film, "The Breakfast Club". Namely the following two:

- Annoying and above all unfunny ethnic stereotypes.

- Flattery of his teenage audience's desires and ideas about themselves.

"Weird Science"'s artistic repugnance is not due to the fact that the latter is what it does at its core, so much as its pretense to do otherwise. This is a film that panders to adolescent male fantasies while simultaneously pretending to deconstruct them.

The film's premise - a hybrid cross between "Frankenstein" as performed by horny and geeky teenage virgins, and "Mary Poppins" if the title character was sexy and modern - certainly had a lot of potential. It could have been an interesting examination of adolescent male virgins' ideas of what sex and women must be like, and how culture affects our expectations of sex, beauty and heterosexual relationships.

What the film actually is, however, is essentially "Ferris Bueller With Boobs". The created fantasy-woman, Lisa (played surprisingly well by Kelly LeBrock), is essentially a sexy Manic Pixie Dream Girl, trying to persuade the boys to let their hair down, have a good time and get real, non-created girlfriends. Not too bad a premise in and of itself. In execution, however, we get far too much of the first two and barely any of the latter. Most of the film consists of Lisa taking the boys out in a bar (in which we get a cringe-inducing example of unfunny ethnic stereotypes, as Anthony Michael Hall's character gets drunk and gives an imitation of a black American pimp so stupendously annoying that it defies description), forcing them to deal with their cartoonishly over-the-top relatives (a bullying maniac of a big brother played by a young Bill Paxton, ridiculously stuffy parents and grandparents) and throwing a wild teen party. No laugh is found in any of these situations. And it gets worse when the two boys try and get real girlfriends.

The problem is very simple: The two girls in question have absolutely no personalities to speak of. They spend most of the film dating a pair of school bullies (one of them played by a young Robert Downey Jr., with surprisingly feminine eyes) and rolling their eyes at their antics as parents would to naughty but cute children. The bullies see Lisa and decide they want to swap their girlfriends for her. They don't actually get her of course, but it's a rather telling aspect of the film's portrayal of women.

While one could argue Lisa is a fairly strong and isn't solely defined by her body, as Megan Fox would later be in the loathsome "Transformers", she still serves a pretty misogynistic agenda: Women are never seen beyond the lens of writer-director John Hughes’s stereotypes of how teenage boys think. They are either mystical creatures full of promise of sexual wonder, annoying grandmothers/mothers, cool big sisters or prizes to be won. Take, for example, the scene in which Lisa conjures up a bunch of "Mad Max" rejects (their leader played by "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" villain Vernon Wells) to crash the party, wreck everything and terrorize the guests. The boys at first behave with customary cowardice. Only when they threaten their two prospective girlfriends, with whom they have only exchanged a few words in the bathroom without getting to know them, do they take action and stand up to them. Is that really how one should see male and female gender roles? Taken straight from the pages of bad comic books?

Actually, Lisa's powers are part of another problem I had with the film. The screenplay gives her magic powers that allow the film to amp up the crazy with giant phallic missiles, "Mad Max" rejects and thunderstorms so powerful they rip a Playboy model's clothes off. But all this madness does nothing except give the film more running time and hide its lack of ideas. Hughes does not use camp insanity as Ken Russell masterfully did in "Crimes Of Passion" to comically illustrate and dissect his characters' sexual fantasies, he only uses them for effect.

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