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Looking Back: Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Around the time “Teen Wolf Too” arrived in theaters during the fall of 1987, the franchise had already peaked and was ready for an infusion of new blood. The Michael J. Fox-starring sleeper hit of 1985 was in constant cable TV rotation and the Saturday morning cartoon spin-off was, likewise, a once-popular 80’s television staple. This is in no way an endorsement of “Teen Wolf Too” but a suggestion of a sequel wasn’t an altogether bad idea.

Jason Bateman stars as Todd Howard, the cousin of Fox’s Scott Howard. Todd, unlike his cousin, is aware of his family’s lycanthrope heritage and seems embarrassed about it . It doesn’t take long before Howard’s roommate, Styles (now played by another actor) and Chubs (still played by Mark Holton)  find their moment to exploit the wolf within.

Bateman’s low-watt but unmistakable charm carries the movie. There are only glimpses here of the highly accomplished, charismatic actor he’d become but, at the very least, Bateman is impressive in his commitment to this film’s more emotional moments. It’s easy to sell the dopey Teen Wolf scenes (the make-up does most of the work for him) but he’s very good at conveying Todd’s awkward vulnerability.

Some of the best characters from the original are back but have been re-cast by less capable actors. Since this is basically a college-set, boxing-heavy  remake of the original, you’d think they’d at least hone in on the stuff that worked. A unique rivalry in the original, between the high school principal and Scott Howard’s father, isn’t reworked but they did bring back Holton, giving his all to the degrading role of “Chubby.”

It’s odd to see John Astin, so hilarious playing Gomez Addams, in such a mean-spirited, unfunny role as the mean college headmaster. There’s also Kim Darby, the star of the 1971 “True Grit,” seriously slumming it as an inspiring teacher.

For all the “Wolf Fever” shenanigans and punch-out scenes, it’s the generic but genuinely sweet love story that clicks. Estee Chandler, playing a sympathetic and extremely forgiving classmate of Todd’s, has an easygoing chemistry with Bateman. Their genteel courtship is the only thing to get truly engaged in. Otherwise, the screenplay follows a checklist of events to rehash from the original. The original “Teen Wolf” is not one of the great comedies of the 1980’s but the humor and charm it offered was unforced. It also has one of the most memorable soundtracks of its day and a scene-stealing, definitive “Party Animal” sidekick in Stiles.

If the original was treading on the idea that turning into a werewolf is an allegory for puberty and struggling to define ones identity in those tricky teen years, the sequel follows suit. Todd’s becoming “The Wolf” is akin to losing control, becoming addicted to self destructive behavior and partaking in narcissistic behavior in a university setting. This would have gone a long way in a smart movie but not this one. If anything, Todd’s naughty high jinks are glossed over as quickly as his friends forgive him (which is to say, much too fast). The emphasis here is on the boxing scenes. Although better choreographed and staged than expected, why did the filmmakers think this was a suitable sport for this movie?

There comes a point where “Teen Wolf Too” stops telling a story and starts pouring on the montages. While it’s a blatantly lazy way to pad the running time and make it seem like there’s more plot here than there really is, these sequences give this a much needed infusion of energy. More boxing montages really ought to accompanied by high octane Oingo Boingo songs (ditto the studying-for-the-big-final montage, set to “Send Me An Angel” by Real Life).

Hard to say which scene offers the irredeemable moment, as there are a lot to choose from here. The cringe worthy music number, set to a lesser version of “Do You Love Me,” and the big reveal of Kim Darby’s character, are definitely Hall of Fame bad.

“Teen Wolf Too” lasted in theaters for a few weeks, garnered something of a cult following on videocassette and now stands as a curiosity item for Bateman completists. As unlikely, ill-fated debut starring role vehicles go, it’s not unwatchable or even the worst movie Bateman’s ever been in. As bad as this gets, it could have been so much worse. Just ask the cast of “Mannequin Two: On The Move.”

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