The Breakfast Club may be the pinnacle of cinema’s take on the coming of age genre, but with its release may have come with disappointed with some of John Hughes’ audience. I believe it is one of those films that became the classic that it is now with repeated viewings, standing in isolation from the many forgettable films of the same cloth of its decade, a praise that could only be gained through the passing of its bloated decade and highlighted through critical reflection. Weird Science came out on the same year as The Breakfast Club, which stars one of his key collaborators Anthony Michael Hall. This seems like a film that was created purely to secure a commercial profit, since his previous experimental feature of adolescents in a library talking for about an hour and a half doesn’t exactly scream out entertainment.
If Sixteen Candles was John Hughes’ take on the angst of female adolescence, Weird Science would be his male counterpart; but unlike his debut film, Weird Science takes on a fantastical premise that throughout walks on a tight rope, most likely your enjoyment of the film would be based on your ability to tolerate its preposterousness. I was however able to accept the wild premise, but found myself still underwhelmed due to its chaotic focus in its narrative. It follows two geeky students who crave for the female flesh, staring intently at flock of girls that populate its gymnasium, which is soon turned to embarrassment due to bullies that creep behind them and pull down their shorts. The film requires very little introduction to its two protagonists, immediately identified by their isolation and desperation, that they are not popular within the school’s social circles; Hughes takes our prejudices and immediately places them in the souls of these characters, allowing the premise to take form hastily.
An idea struck their minds as the two boys catch a viewing of Frankenstein in their television, hence channelling their deep desires and ideals of the female figure of a “monster” of their own to exploit; utilising one of their computers and hacking into a government facility, they were able to create Lisa, played perfectly by the beautiful Kelly LeBrock. The two young boys have finally gained the opportunity to do what they have always wanted to a girl; but funnily enough the first thing they do together as a trio is to take a shower but without actually doing anything constructive, the two boys hilariously stand in the corner with both a feeling of amazement and intimidation of what is presented in from them, the female form in all of its glory.
Despite the young boys’ intentions, Lisa becomes an essential instrument of their growth and understanding; she exposes them to the statements and actions that they have long desired, to negotiate with their parents for freedom, to include them in the mingling social circles through an impressive party, and to finally open their eyes to the importance of being who you are and reveal the reality of what love means to them. By the end of the film, they become slightly different than who they were when we were first introduced to them, finally being able to stick up for not just themselves but to those who are in danger, and earn the respect they have sorely deserved by their peers; all achieved under Lisa’s intentions and manipulative methods.
However, the film fails to take these worthy ideas and place them in a narrative that is cohesive, leaving us with something messy and unworthy of our attention. It becomes lost in the gags it creates and the absurdity of its randomness; an appealing method it must have been at the time in its ability to provide escapism but now lacks the power to stand tall among its peers that have thrived in the passing decades. Sixteen Candles was a film that manages to have fun through some moments of randomness, utilising a strong comic timing that manages to draw out a laugh with almost each passing gag, but it remained effective even up to contemporary standards as it remains grounded and it contains a narrative that at least remains connected with its humour, an exaggeration that never loses its essence. Weird Science’s empathetic elements are lost in its attempts of humour and can only be found if one truly pays extreme attention to the passing words in its transition to the upcoming joke.
Weird Science definitely has its fan-base, some even considering it a cherished classics by Hughes enthusiasts, but I feel this is a disintegrating piece that would someday be forgotten due to its dated humour and messy structure.