Hughes #7 – Weird Science (1985)

My computer errors just give me the blue screen of death.

The Story

Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are teen geeks in Shermer, Illinois, sex-obsessed but with zero prospects. One night, the boys think to create a female computer sim, hoping to ask her about sex or to write her into sick, demented situations to see what she’ll do (really). Instead of just creating a new A.L.I.C.E. bot, their simulation somehow summons a hurricane, breaks the internet, and conjures a magical woman named Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) whose only desire is to fulfill all of theirs. Lisa is ready for sex, but decides to set the boys up for popularity long term instead, throwing a huge party for them which is wrecked, of course, by the nightmares inherent in magic science (nuclear warheads and mutant bikers.) The boys confront the bikers, earn the school’s respect, and win girlfriends. Her work done, Lisa leaves the boys so she can take a job as a highly inappropriate gym teacher.

pictured: a gym teacher

The Production

In the early 1980s, Hollywood mega-producer Joel Silver acquired the film rights to all titles published under the banner of EC Comics. EC (the ‘E’ stands for Entertaining) thrived during the 1950s, specializing in genre anthology books back when you could actually write comic stories with no superheroes without losing your shirt. EC’s diverse catalog included Tales from the Crypt, Mad Magazine, and a lesser known title called Weird Science. Silver approached John Hughes about developing these titles into features, and Hughes eagerly accepted. Hughes had grown up on EC books and was keen on adapting Weird Science for teens.

“I made this woman, but will she get along with the other kitchen appliances?”

Hughes wrote the script for Weird Science in a brisk two days, hanging his story loosely on “Made of the Future,” a story from the comic that revolved around a robot woman. Hughes shot Weird Science immediately after his smash hit, The Breakfast Club, casting Club star Anthony Michael Hall in his third straight film for Hughes. Although Hall would take the lead role in a Hughes picture for the first time—and pass up the chance to reprise his role as Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s European Vacation—this would be the last film Hall would do for Hughes.

The Soundtrack

To match the film’s frantic tone, Hughes filled the movie with catchy, synthesized tracks from new wave and alt-pop gods like Killing Joke and Wall of Voodoo, but the standout is the title song by the band Oingo Boingo (featuring Danny Elfman, just a few years before he locked eyes with Tim Burton from across the party and left pop music behind forever, even though pop music had been totally good to him and he’d never find anyone better in the big city.). “Weird Science” is an infectious tune—all ‘80s—and cobbled together from references to the classic mad-scientist movies that Weird Science longs to be. The song is so intertwined with the film that its power continues to grow even today; as contracts expire and the film loses music rights, the easy fix is to add more “Weird Science” (for example, the finale once used the Rocky theme as its audio exit joke, but the rights are gone, and so on DVD today? Science!)

The Misfit

Gary and Wyatt are the nerdy misfits that should be harassing the lead in another Hughes movie, so they require a special kind of misfit to bedevil them, and one of their creation: Lisa, the super computer magic genie sex goddess. Although supposedly the girl of their dreams, Lisa is more like the girl of their id, continuously daring the boys to man up, slap their superego down, and lose their pants when showering with someone who looks like Kelly LeBrock. Their digital “dream girl” terrorizes Wyatt’s grandparents, pulls a gun on Gary’s parents, and nearly unleashes science-fueled Armageddon on small town Shermer, Illinois, all in the name of making the boys a few friends. The residents of a quiet Earth can be thankful the boys didn’t think to ask for unlimited power, or else the nerds would rule the world.

Oh… right.

Cavity-Inducing Moment

Weird Science is mostly free of sugar-coating; its one supposedly “sweet” scene is less syrupy than deeply disturbing. On her first night of life, Lisa, who you’ll recall was literally created for sex, provides alcohol for Wyatt, gently makes out with him, and then takes him to bed (although it’s later revealed that Wyatt is too drunk to succeed.) Sweet? OK, now replace Wyatt with a 15-year-old girl and switch LeBrock with 1980s Patrick Swayze, his rock-hard abs moist with sweat from all the ass he was just kicking at the Road House. Still sweet? Or something you should get out of your house right fucking now before the Feds arrive?

Overall

A few movies exist that, in order to really love them, you just had to be there. By “there,” I mean that a person had to be the right age, in the right year, and seeing the film at the right time. For example, Superman and Superman II have never done a thing for me. I saw them too late in my life and for me they’re just silly and dull. For other people, The Goonies is a terrible, possibly offensive film, but one that I happen to love because I saw it at the right age. You can guess where I’m going with this when I say that I had never seen Weird Science before starting this Project. Wherever and whenever I had to be to like it, I wasn’t there.

“Uh-huh. Can we see the gym teacher again?”

Weird Science is supposedly a fluffy, safe teenage comedy about two undersexed nerds shaking off their geek stink to get the girls and a life, all with the help of a GUI Mary Poppins who offers her ample breasts in place of a spoonful of sugar. Unfortunately, I can’t find that movie. Sure, there are mutant bikers and rancid troglodytes and Robert Downy, Jr. and that guy who had his face burned off in Babylon 5 wearing bras on their heads, but there’s some real weirdness going on here, and it ain’t the science.

Let’s skip right past the movie’s magical internet, which looks like the Lawnmower Man’s screensaver and can supposedly create living flesh from nothing by being turned up to 11. I’m ignoring that. It’s “weird.” I get it. No, what’s really unusual to me is how nobody suggests that—like Alfonso Cuaron’s teen heroes in Y tu mama tambien, who Gary and Wyatt most remind me of—maybe all the boys really need is each other. Like many of John Hughes’ heroes, the boys live in a world removed of authority (Gary’s parents have only a token appearance and forget their son at the wiggle of Lisa’s nose ), and so they cling to each other, spending every waking (and sleeping) minute together, mostly boasting to each other about how straight and horny they are, working each other into a sexual lather that literally creates another person to contain it. By the time Lisa shows up, programmed with pedophilia, she’s the least sexually awkward figure in the room.

Wait, Wyatt doesn’t have a sister, where did he get…? Are those his mom’s bras?

Don’t mistake me, I’m not arguing that this subtext hurts the movie. In fact, several films have been greatly improved by searching for their hidden meanings, intentional or otherwise (I’m looking at you, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2). The problem is that there isn’t enough movie here to hold all of these impulses together. Hughes went too broad once again, an urge that also betrayed him in Curly Sue and in his late-career kiddie films. He made the choice here to  reconfigure the comic’s Outer Limits-like morality stories into a frenzied fantasy entry into the 80s teen sex genre, which had kick-started just a few years earlier with Bob Clark’s Porky’s. The good news for Hughes is that, despite my 2010 eyes finding what probably isn’t there, he still pushed all the right buttons for 1985. The film was a huge success, made tons of fans, and today is warmly remembered as one of the highlights of his career. Again, right place, right time.

And whose doll is that, exactly?

The bad news is that Weird Science hasn’t aged as well as the other Hughes’ films, and Hughes’ films haven’t aged particularly well. Without the comforting haze of nostalgia, all I can happily take away from the film is LeBrock’s fiery, sexually empowered performance and a fleeting glimpse of Bill Paxton (as Wyatt’s brother, Chet) on the cusp of becoming a star. Otherwise, all I see is a bunch of ideas with nowhere to go, and too many truly awful moments (the blues bar, the gun-pulling incident at Gary’s house, the mutant bikers) to give the film’s subtext something to hang on to. In the end, the film is just too… too… weird.

The John Hughes Project

6. ???

7. Weird Science

8. Curly Sue

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  1. #1 by educlaytion on 10/29/2010 - 6:04 PM

    Truly obsessive. I love it. This happens to be one of my all-time favs. I attempted to rank the top Gen X movies of all-time on my blog a good while back. Everybody disagrees with the list including me, but ranking is so tough! Today’s post is about how much technology (Twitter, cell phones, etc…) would have changed famous films. You are be a perfect candidate to come up with more movies. I’d love for you to jump into the discussion.
    http://www.eduClaytion.com

  2. #2 by Rae on 10/30/2010 - 3:45 PM

    Loooove LeBrock in this. She’s so sexy! Nice to see a nod to Porky’s in there, by the way. I actually really liked the Porky movies, but think they get overlooked in the “sex genre” discussions… hmm, as often as those come up? ;)

  3. #3 by Rabbit on 10/31/2010 - 8:15 PM

    I was def. in the right place at the right time for that movie– it was hilarious when I was a kid. It’s grossly offensive now, but I can still recall it fondly.

  4. #4 by gelpi2010 on 11/19/2010 - 9:12 AM

    The movie is best remembered for LeBrock’s hot presence, but I still think “Woman in Red” used her better. I do like how LeBrock is presented as a strong female, which is probably done to avoid any accusations of misogyny. Hughes clearly doesn’t know what to do with the fantasy elements of the story though.

  5. #5 by Jason on 03/22/2011 - 2:42 AM

    Interesting analysis. While I personally love the movie, I was one of those in the right place at the right time, and a lot of my love is out of nostalgia. I sometimes wonder what a modern mind seeing this film for the first time would think, and now I know. Oh and by the way, Wyatt did have a sister. Her name was Chloe and that’s where his parents were for the whole film, visiting her and meeting the man she was going to marry.

    • #6 by thehollywoodprojects on 03/22/2011 - 4:13 AM

      Yeah, clearly the movie connects with some people, but I think it’s fair to say that Hughes never intended a person’s first viewing of the film to be for the purpose of analyzing it for a blog. It doesn’t really hold up compared to his better stuff, at least for me.

      And thank you about clearing up the sister issue. I would never have placed my sister’s bra on my head at that or any age, but if Kelly LeBrock was on the table, then I’d have to consider it.

      • #7 by Jason on 03/22/2011 - 5:09 PM

        Yeah, the bras on the head is definitely weird (regardless of the “ceremonial” value Gary) and I don’t think the fact that Wyatt has a sister makes it any less strange, but it probably explains where the doll came from. Although I think it would be funnier if we found out it really belonged to Chet.

        There are several different versions of this film, different networks will cut stuff out for content and add in deleted scenes, and there is a lot of dialog near the beginning that you will sometimes see on TV that isn’t in the theatrical version. The bit of dialog about Wyatt’s sister may be one of those added scenes and could explain why you didn’t see it. It’s pretty much just mentioned in passing while Gary is making a mess of Wyatt’s sink. A lot of the deleted material takes place during the beginning of their sleepover, and there is also a scene later where a group of Devo-esque people show up at the part.

        I agree it doesn’t really hold up, especially when compared to other Hughes films. It’s a little too ingrained in its 80’s roots to be timeless. So it works best for people that saw it back then and enjoy the nostalgia, or people who are just 80’s buffs.

        And as you mentioned, a lot of the themes either get lost or just don’t come out right. I guess the overall moral of the story is that Geeky guys can be cool too, but I think that message was much better executed in Revenge Of The Nerds. After all, the girls only fell for Gary and Wyatt on account of Lisa’s trickery and the fact that if the super hot Lisa was attracted to them, so they felt they should be too.

        Interesting side note, my brother went to Texas A&M and Ilan Mitchell-Smith was his professor one semester for an English or Literature course. I don’t think he still teaches there though, that was years ago.

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