a critiQal film review Weird Science (1985)

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Plot: Teen misfits Gary (Hall) and Wyatt (Mitchell-Smith) design their ideal woman on a computer, and a freak electrical accident brings her to life in the form of the lovely, superhuman Lisa (LeBrock). She outfits Gary and Wyatt in cool clothes, surprises them with a Porsche and helps them stand up to jerks Ian (Downey Jr.) and Max (Rusler). But, all the while, the boys must hide Lisa's existence from Chet (Paxton), Wyatt's nightmare of a big brother.

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While perusing the NetFlix® instant viewing options (as I often tend to do on the weekends), I stumbled across a classic 80’s movie I hadn’t seen since, well, the 80’s: Weird Science. Since I was looking for a movie to watch (and review), I figured I’d found my choice. But, would the comedy I vaguely remember from the 80’s still be worth watching nearly 20 years later, or had I stumbled across another film destroyed by time?

Anthony Michael Hall. He first hit it big thanks to his ability to play a nerd in John Hughes’ flicks in the 80’s, and has since transformed himself into a heartthrob star (see sci-fi series “The Dead Zone”). While he’s barely recognizable these days as the nerd he once played – both in terms of looks and his much-improved acting abilities – both personas have something unique to contribute.

In Weird Science, he’s not as completely in his element as a nerd as he was in films like The Breakfast Club (1985) or Sixteen Candles (1984), but the storyline – about a nerd who becomes popular – seems to be a mirror of what actually happened to him, so that seems to give the character a bit more of a depth to it than Hughes – or Hall himself, for that matter – actually intended.

His co-nerd, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as well known, and based on his performance in Weird Science, that’s not really a big surprise. He’s mostly there to channel a young, frantically neurotic Woody Allen, and fret about whatever is happening around him – and to let Anthony Michael Hall try to bounce his patented nerdiness off of.

Bill Paxton, as a mean older brother to Mitchell-Smith’s Wyatt, unleashes his funny side, delivering some of the best lines of the film (telling his brother to “cover-up” the panties Wyatt finds himself in by whipping off his own towel, revealing himself naked underneath) with a deadpan delivery that will have viewers laughing every time they see him. Sure, it’s not his best comedic performance (that has to be his turn in True Lies) but it did showcase a comedic side that viewers of the time didn’t even know he had.

Kelly LeBrock, on the other hand, seems the most comfortable of the lot, playing through each situation with a sly grin, as if she’s the only one in on the film’s silly secrets. It works well for her, and while her career may have fizzled a bit after Weird Science (Seagal-starrer Hard to Kill (1990) was really her only other film that got nearly as big as this one, and most probably won’t remember her as well from that one), the viewer is pretty sure she isn’t aware of how memorable her role in this film would become. Thankfully, since she’s able to give what would turn out to be the performance of her career with a playfulness that viewers will find themselves latching onto amidst the bizarre happenings of the film.

Weird Science is easily the most fantastical of Hughes’ films. While he usually tended to ground his films in reality, Weird Science throws reality on it’s head and goes for the fantasy at every turn – and the creation of a nerd’s dream come true in fantasy woman Lisa is just the beginning. From bikers (looking like they just stepped out of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1982)) literally crashing a party to grandparents frozen in catatonic states to a person being turned into what looks to be a slimier version of Pizza the Hutt from Spaceballs, the “science” just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

If you’re going in to Weird Science expecting another Hughes’ classic this-might-actually-happen teen angst scenario, you’re going to be shocked at what this film has to offer. The teen angst is still there, and the film works out as you would expect from a Hughes’ flick, but on the way, reality takes a vacation and fantasy takes over completely.

Even the ending leaves viewers wondering how much of the film was fantasy and how much actually happened to these two nerds, with Weird Science wrapping up a bit too quickly to tie up all of it’s loose ends, and an added sequence that does nothing but confuse viewers even more.

Trying to blend fantasy and reality together enough to make the viewers wonder what is real and what isn’t, Weird Science is a trippy comedy that showed that while Hughes could do a film not grounded in reality, it really wasn’t what he was best at. Even so, it’s still got it’s moments, even nearly 20 years later.

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