Weird Science (1985)

(Second Viewing: On DVD, July 2011) At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised if movies I dimly remembered as being hilarious end up just on the amusing side of funny.  Unfortunately, Weird Science goes to join the ranks of eighties comedies that just aren’t as good as they should have been.  The central idea in seeing two nerds create “the perfect woman” thanks to some modern hocus-pocus is still potent (albeit maybe a bit less amusing nowadays given the age difference between the actors) and the film does have a few good scenes.  But the connective tissue between those scenes… and the mismatch between the possibilities of the premise and what’s up on the screen is just annoying.  Part of the problem, especially for viewers schooled in fantasy fiction, is the film’s very loose adherence to a coherent imaginative framework: everything seems possible in the film, and while this carries its own reward (let’s face it: the Pershing missile thing is still one of the film’s finest moments), it also unmoors the film and sends it in fantasyland where the stakes are low because everything’s possible –it’s far, far better to file Weird Science under “teen comedy”  rather than “fantasy” or “science-fiction”.  Both the plot and the characters are underdeveloped, and don’t go much beyond “two good kids learn a lesson”.  The overacting in the film is a bit surprising twenty-five years later.  Weird Science, seen from 2011, doesn’t quite hold together, and definitely seems like a minor John Hughes teen comedy when compared to the rest of his eighties filmography.  Still, the film still warrants a look today for a couple of reasons: It has aged reasonably well, turning itself into an unabashed time capsule of the mid-eighties in their weird Reganian splendour.  (Mid-riff shirts?  Why???) It also remains one of Kelly LeBrock’s defining performances: being asked to play “the perfect woman” to two horny teenagers is a tough order, but she manages to make it look easy.  The film also features early roles for Bill Paxton and Robert Downey Jr., and a catchy theme song that eighties kids probably still remember.  Weird Science certainly isn’t perfect, but in the right mood it’s a charming throwback to another time –a perfect movie for a quiet evening.

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