Weird Movie: A Look at Weird Science at 35
Updated: 3 days ago
I would definitely say that I am a big fan of the works of John Hughes. His films run the gamut: from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Mr. Mom, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But all things considered, I would not say Weird Science is one of Hughes’ best creations; nor has it aged particularly well since its release in 1985. That said, I will address the things that bothered me most upon rewatch upfront, so that we can delve into the actually enjoyable parts of this goofy, sci-fi, teenage-wet-dream of a movie.
For those of you who do not quite remember the plot: Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Anthony Michael Hall play Wyatt and Gary, best friends in high school who fantasize about girls but seem too young and “uncool” (at least during the 80’s) to actually date any. They are plagued by two upperclassmen, one of which is played by a young Robert Downey (sans the Jr.). When Wyatt’s parents go out of town for the weekend, they are further tormented by Wyatt’s older brother, Chet (RIP Bill Paxton), who rocks an amazing flat top haircut, but otherwise is definitely an asshole. Gary and Wyatt retreat to hang out in Wyatt’s room where they get the amazeballs idea to create their very own sexy lady using Wyatt’s computer.
Here’s where things get weird (and convoluted). Is this supposed to be science fiction or fantasy? Wyatt should definitely be getting some kind of Nobel Prize, because in the movie he is able to figure out a way to feed literature and photos of both beautiful women AND Albert Einstein into his computer, then he uses it to hack into some kind of government mainframe system all before clamping wires from it to a Barbie doll, mimicking Frankenstein creating his monster. The sky above turns red and clouds gather over the house, just before lightning strikes and we get the best part of the movie (for both the characters and us viewers): Kelly LeBrock.
LeBrock comes out of the boy’s bathroom in a haze of smoke and 80’s windblown-hair glory. She’s a total fox, but she’s not dumb (remember? they fed the computer a photo of Albert Einstein). The best part about their creation? She’s there to “serve” her masters: two ridiculous, sex-crazed, teenage boys who have no idea what they have just created.
From there, the movie is pretty standard fare before it gets truly weird. LeBrock’s character initially does not have a name, so Gary gives her the name of Lisa, after a girl he liked who did not reciprocate his feelings. (Hughes himself named her Lisa after an early Apple computer model). This is a pretty good indication of the motivation for our two “heroes.” So far, they have struck out in the lady department and in appearing “cool” to their peers. Lisa on the other hand, is 80’s cool personified. She’s beautiful, she has a British accent (for reasons unknown), and with a snap of her fingers she can dress herself and the boys in the coolest duds of the times and conjure up a sweet Cadillac to take them out on the town. They all go out for a good time - complete with fake IDs - to hear music and get drunk with people who definitely appear 20-30 years their senior (and may have been in several other Hughes’ films). Lisa doesn’t seem to mind, she takes it all in stride, and before we know it, her charm has won everyone over. Sheila Benson wrote in her “Los Angeles Times” review back in 1985 that: “the film’s greatest asset is Kelly LeBrock, who is triumphant. She may represent souped-up womanhood at its most fanciful but she does so with great warmth and a sharp sense of herself.”
The thing is, I don’t really like our two main characters, Wyatt and Gary. In Sixteen Candles, Anthony Michael Hall is at his dorkiest, but also his most endearing. In The Breakfast Club, his “nerd” persona is actually the most human of the group. But as Gary, he is essentially a far less likable version of his character in Sixteen Candles, trying to score with the ladies, but in a far more offensive way. The dialogue of Weird Science definitely surprised me after all these years. It features “bitch,” “faggot,” and much much more! This vernacular is not coming from the mouths of the film’s villains, but from our two main characters, Wyatt and Gary (well, mostly Gary). In a scene when Gary has clearly had too much to drink, he begins imitating an old Black man, trying to appeal to the gentlemen around him as they talk about soul music and women. I did some digging on the internet, because this scene (and the aforementioned uses of bitch and faggot repeatedly) is what most bothered me upon rewatch. Apparently, Anthony Michael Hall and John Hughes were both big fans of the comedy of Richard Pryor. Pryor is indeed hilarious. But seeing a teenage White boy trying to imitate him without understanding the reference? Not so much.
On the flip side, Wyatt seems to have inherited the sweetness of Hall’s earlier characters from his other Hughes’ productions. Wyatt even manages to have his first kiss and learn a few pointers from Lisa (butt squeeze) - who is able to pull off this scene without too much creepiness. She manages to seem more like a non-familial “big sister,” trying to help these two dudes realize that they have a chance in this world if they just stand up for themselves and go for it. Lisa parades around the mall with her two young fellas, taunting the upperclassmen who cannot believe she is with Wyatt and Gary, until the girlfriends of said upperclassmen start to realize that those guys actually kind of suck.
Lisa convinces the boys to throw a massive party at Wyatt’s house while his parents are gone (don’t worry, Chet is out duck hunting), and she schemes to help them gain both girlfriends and coolness. When the two girls they have dreamt of finally show up at their party, the boys actually worry about potentially hurting Lisa’s feelings which is both really sweet and ridiculous. But those girls (to be fair) seem both intimidated and awed by Lisa. The best part of the movie (in my opinion) is how sweet and charming LeBrock plays Lisa. Even though she occasionally slips up, displaying her use of weird (magic?) parlor tricks in an effort to help the boys, she always has their best interests at heart. Both Wyatt and Gary are pretty hesitant to speak to the girls they like at the party. They spend the better part of the night hiding inside a closet having panic attacks about how much of a mess the house is becoming before Lisa tips the scale further to motivate them to shine.
This is again where I ask: science fiction or fantasy? Both? Lisa in theory is AI: Artificial intelligence. She was created by the boys using a computer. But she goes around changing the physical landscape around her with the blink of an eye: she creates clothes, fancy cars with novelty license plates, and trays of weird party snacks featuring caviar. Then like a mama bird pushing her chicks out of the nest, she summons some weird Mad Max-meets-sex-dungeon characters to show up at the house on motorcycles to torment the partying highschoolers and harass the girls that Wyatt and Gary admire. This is where the two boys finally stand up for themselves (but also call them a bunch of faggots and the girl a bitch). Good times. The cast of Thunderdome finally apologizes to the party’s hosts and leaves. The girls are so terrified and thankful that they decide Wyatt and Gary ARE COOL and decide to date them. SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF, FRIENDS.
The next morning Chet returns and freaks the fuck out, but Lisa turns him into some kind of farting weird poop-emoji monster who eats bugs, until he promises to treat Wyatt and Gary with respect. Then Lisa pulls a Bewitched and cleans up the entire house (and Chet) just before mom and dad return from their weekend away. The boys are so very thankful. They’ve learned a lot from Lisa and they both tear up as they hug and kiss her goodbye. And honestly, I was a little sad to see Lisa go too. LeBrock is the best part of the movie as far as I’m concerned, (despite the connotation of her being an AI magic sex slave to two teenage boys). The way the film ends is with Lisa in full 80’s workout gear (a la Olivia Newton-John) getting ready to lead a boys’ high school gym class much to everyone’s chagrin. She, of course, makes all the boys faint.
Again, science fiction or fantasy? Is she a witch? Is she some kind of succubus that needs the love and adoration of young boys to thrive? Who knows? This movie isn’t that deep! Some things to consider when judging Weird Science harshly: John Hughes was prolific during his career, and he churned out Sixteen Candles, shortly followed by The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science in a span of 15 months. Take that in for a minute: 15 MONTHS. Maybe one out of three films not being an all-time favorite is understandable. I started to wonder if maybe the film didn’t really sit well with me because it has been over 30 years since Weird Science was released, and a whole lot has happened since then (including the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements). But I took a look back at several film reviews written in 1985, and it was a pretty mixed bag of reactions (mostly unpopular) back then too. My go-to duo back in the day, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, lovingly disagreed: Siskel gave it a dramatic thumbs down, stating: “A wonderful writer-director has taken a cute idea about two teenage Dr. Frankensteins creating a perfect woman by computer and turned it into a vulgar, mindless, special-effects-cluttered wasteland.” Ebert on the other hand was a bit kinder in his 1985 take. He described the character of Lisa as: “an intelligent, sensitive woman who sees right through these teenagers and tries to do them some good,” crediting LeBrock and her character with making Weird Science, “funnier, and a little deeper, than the predictable story it might have been.” While the movie itself definitely has its flaws, I couldn’t agree more.
Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school drop out. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro