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Dustin Putman

Teen Wolf Too  (1987)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: August 8, 2017) – Treated for too long as the black sheep (wolf?) sequel to goofy 1985 hit "Teen Wolf," the critically lambasted "Teen Wolf Too" takes the blueprint of its predecessor, shifts around a handful of details, and, dare it be said, improves upon said formula in several key ways. Perhaps the initial source of disappointment for viewers in 1987 was the replacement of Michael J. Fox with a "The Hogan Family"-era Jason Bateman, but Bateman shows such charisma in this—his first lead role in a feature film—it proves rather refreshing to see how a different actor's energy gels with the outrageous premise. Bateman isn't playing the same character as Fox anyway, but his cousin, Todd Howard. Accepted to Hamilton University on a curious athletic scholarship (he has never been the sports type), aspiring veterinarian Todd believes his family's lycanthropic lineage has skipped him until it makes itself known in a big way. Suddenly, a far hairier Todd finds himself the resident BMOC: a hit at parties, desirable to female classmates, the dean's (John Astin) pet student, and a can't-miss competitor on his struggling college boxing team. With this popularity comes a newfound pompous attitude, a stark personality shift which girlfriend Nicki (Estee Chandler) knows isn't at all who he really is.

"Teen Wolf Too" swaps out high school for college and basketball for boxing, but otherwise plays like a virtual remake of "Teen Wolf." There are subtleties in how director Christopher Leitch and screenwriter Tim Kring approach the material, however, that make this an ultimately superior continuation. Whereas Michael J. Fox's Scott Howard was barely fleshed out as a protagonist, a high-schooler who played on the basketball team because it was the thing to do and, insofar as one could tell, had no other interests or aspirations, Bateman's Todd is forced into boxing as a means of fulfilling his scholarship but otherwise has other bigger, hopeful career endeavors about which he is passionate. Todd also isn't nearly as dense in the romantic department, recognizing very early on there is a spark between he and biology partner Nicki (for Fox's Scott, it took him nearly the entire film to realize female best friend Boof was the one for him). By not prolonging the inevitable, Todd and Nicki have more time to honestly and maturely develop their relationship.

Todd's personal arc is more effective as well; when he realizes he doesn't like the arrogant person he has become, the steps he takes to right his wrongs ring truer. The boxing championship finale is choreographed exceptionally well and builds palpable tension, all while making the point that the outcome of the fight means very little to Todd outside of proving to himself he has what it takes to achieve his goals without relying on the sharper abilities his wolf transformations give him. For him, convincing Professor Brooks (Kim Darby) to allow him to make up an important exam he missed is a far more crucial and pressing matter. His future, after all, is on the line.

There is no denying "Teen Wolf Too" is an innocuous comedic fantasy, every bit as ridiculous as its precursor. It's a little bit smarter in its development and follow-through, though, daring to make the initially ingratiating Todd more unlikable during his deceptive rise to the top so that his culminating redemption in the third act is all the sweeter and well-earned. Also a step above: an energetic musical number to "Do You Love Me?" by Ragtime not nearly as embarrassing as the choreographed wolf dance in "Teen Wolf," and a fun soundtrack (e.g., "One Step Forward" by The Desert Rose Band, "Outrageous" and "Who Do You Want to Be Today?" by Oingo Boingo, "Send Me an Angel" by Real Life). Watching a still-teenaged Jason Bateman as Todd, one can see why he went on to have a lasting acting career; much like Fox before him, he can play the humor and still hold a dramatic gravitas when needed. As the watchful Professor Brooks, Kim Darby makes the most of a seemingly throwaway supporting role, one which irresistibly pays off during the climax. While only popping up a few times, James Hampton is a welcome presence as Todd's Uncle Harold, offering words of wisdom to his nephew while serving to pass the wolfy torch. What "Teen Wolf Too" lacks in originality, it makes up for by fine-tuning the paper-thin "Teen Wolf" blueprint for the shrewder and more heartfelt.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Teen Wolf Too" is quite the looker in its high-def premiere, appearing fresher and more vibrant than one could possibly have imagined from this under-appreciated 1987 sequel. Releasing to Blu-ray from Scream Factory day-and-date with the original "Teen Wolf," "Teen Wolf Too" is in exceptionally fine shape. Since it is not mentioned in the packaging or in the press release that this title has received any kind of restoration, one can only assume the 1080p transfer must have been taken from an immaculately preserved print. It is strikingly clean (I spotted next to no age-related damage or specks), and colors appear healthy and accurate throughout. Black levels are additionally deep, and there is even a fairly consistent dimensionality to the image. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is free of any notable issues; clearly this 30-year-old comedy isn't demo aural material, but it is entirely accurate to source, and the lossless mix includes an even, satisfying prioritization between its music, sound effects, and dialogue. In short, it sounds great.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Working with the Wolf" Featurette (16:08, HD) - an interview with director Christopher Leitch
  • "A Man of Great Stiles" Featurette (16:26, HD) - an interview with actor Stuart Fratkin
  • "Nerdy Girl Saves the Day" Featurette (6:30, HD) - an interview with actor Estee Chandler
  • "Otherworldly" Featurette (6:32, HD) - an interview with actor Kim Darby
  • "A Wolf in '80s Clothing" Featurette (9:48, HD) - an interview with costume designer Heidi Kaczenski
  • Still Gallery (0:56, HD)
Bottom Line
For "Teen Wolf" fans, having matching Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-rays for the 1985 original and its '87 sequel almost sounds too good to be true. In revisiting these titles for the first time in over two decades, the real surprise was in discovering I actually prefer the unfairly condemned "Teen Wolf Too" to its more popular predecessor. High-spirited, wiser in its lead character arc, and less troublesomely mean-spirited and dated (the homophobic slurs in the first "Teen Wolf" have not aged well), "Teen Wolf Too" is enjoyable in spite of its blatant rehashing of the "Teen Wolf" formula. With a sterling HD transfer and a handful of terrific new interviews with director Christopher Leitch and the cast, this Blu-ray is the perfect way to either discover the silly '80s bliss of "Teen Wolf Too" for the first time, or give it the reassessment it deserves thirty years after it was made. Highly recommended.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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