She’s alive (still!) cries Tony Fyler.
Weird Science is a beautiful movie.
Yes, absolutely, it’s the story of two horny 80s geek boys, and their plan to essentially make themselves a sex slave because no real woman in their vicinity will even look at them.
But honestly, it’s still a beautiful movie.
Most people think of Weird Science as the John Hughes movie that updates Frankenstein for the 80s teen comedy market.
I’d take issue with that.
I’d say it’s the John Hughes movie that updates Cinderella for the 80s teen comedy market.
Think about it – Wyatt and Gary, the two horny geek boys who bring on the mayhem are the 80s equivalent of Cinders – invisible, unloveable, hidden, their dreams, eloquently described in the very first scene of the movie, involve a little drinking, a little dancing and, when the smoke clears, their dream partners falling hopelessly in love with them. Yes, they’re horny 80s geek boys, but they’re only one remove from bursting into a chorus of ‘One Day, My Princess Will Come…’ – bar a little showering, they’re ultimately romantics and gentlemen, and it’s that romantic streak in them that saves what they go on to do from being a creepy hour and a half of exploitation.
Inspired by Frankenstein, what they actually do when they (casually, as teenagers seemed to do all the time in 80s movies) hack the national military computers and fill them with data) is not build their own Princess Charming, but make their own Fairy Godmother. There’s the scientific element of the Frankenstein inspiration, sure – they use computers and they fill them with data – but there’s also, from the outset, the magical element, when they connect a doll to the circuit on an altar made from the Game of Life and some candles, strap bras to their heads and do some ceremonial chanting. When the magic works, unplugging the computer from the wall doesn’t stop it. Throwing the computer out of the WINDOW doesn’t stop it. And Kelly LeBrock’s Lisa, the product of their devotions, has the transformative powers of that good fairy – she points a finger and things happen. The guys walk through a door and their preppy outfits are turned into sharp suits for their night out. It’s even Lisa who ensures they shall go to the Ball – by bringing the Ball to them. When Chet (an early turn from Bill Paxton, and a believable grotesque) acts as surrogate Stepmother to Wyatt, terrorizing him and threatening to bring the world crashing round his ankles, Lisa turns him into – well, into the literal truth of his own shitty attitude.
But Lisa’s no walk in the park. Having been assured of Wyatt and Gary’s good hearts – they can’t follow through on their debauched intentions, staying mostly clothed in the shower with her, and coming to regard her as a sister rather than an object of lust – she’s disappointed in their determination to take the easy route to fame and glory, and engineers them a situation where they have to prove their worth and save the women they claim to love from danger. If the original Cinderella had to prove her foot fitted the slipper for the Prince to recognize her, Lisa engineers the situation where Wyatt and Gary have to prove themselves the knights in shining armour she thinks they can be, to prove they are worthy of Deb and Hilly, their chosen princesses. So sure, there’s a Frankenstein connection, but really, the whole Frankenstein, create-a-woman thing is merely the way the Cinderella plotline is allowed to unfold.
John Hughes, who directed the movie, has of course become a by-word for a type of movie from the 80s and 90s – sweet movies, sometimes bittersweet, and funny. He was a big player in launching the careers of many of what became known as the Brat Pack, and yes, technically, he’s responsible for foisting McCauley Culkin on a disbelieving world. His legacy is the stuff of legend and includes the likes of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as Weird Science. Essentially, you can slip any John Hughes movie in today – thirty years after he made Weird Science, incidentally – and know what you’re getting: some funny, some tough, some heartwarming and some characterization you probably didn’t expect. John Hughes movies are like really good desserts – you know you shouldn’t, but every once in a while, you just want to dive in to one, or two, and luxuriate. Too many and you’ll begin to overdose on sugar and feel a bit sick, but in and of themselves, they’re masterpieces.
Weird Science is really Hughes’ only major dabbling with outright fantasy – most of the time his movies stick to high school reality. But what he does in Weird Science is what any great geek entertainment does – uses the fantastical to expose the truth of humanity, and show a hero quest as a matter of characters rising to prove worthy of the object of their desire, and our admiration. Thirty years on, the bringing out of the princes from inside two geeky, unpopular high school guys is still a charming, funny updating of both the ‘modern Prometheus’ of Frankenstein and of every fairy story you ever read. Dig it out today, and relive on of Hughes’ finest confections.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk.