John Hughes is one of the most iconic writers and directors from the 1980s. His list of credits include classics like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. His strength was always in creating a believable ‘sweet’ version of suburban America, which he populated with relatable teens and young people. One of his less recognizable films is Weird Science, although it has the hallmarks of his greats, this one is often over-looked because of its high concept story.
Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) are nerds. Ridiculed by their classmates, and overlooked by girls they like, they decide during a sleepover, with the parents away, to use their state-of-the-art computer to try and create the perfect woman. A freak storm hits just as they are processing her creation and she is brought to life. With the powers of a God, Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) tries to help her two young creators realise their potential and gain some all-important self-confidence.
Weird Science, like many Hughesion (yes I’ve created a word) films is a character study on the outcasts at high school, those that are bullied and pushed to unhappiness by the ‘cool’ kids (in this case by a very young Robert Downey Jr.). From the outset they are underdogs and over the course of the film gain self-belief which helps them overcome the antagonists that hold them back. Whether it’s teachers, parents or big brothers, Hughes captures the little things that wind us up about them in the broadest terms, which allows him to engage with his entire audience.
Unlike other films of his however, Weird Science lacks the truly hilarious jokes that populate his greater works. There is no Ferris dance number, or Candy and Martin comic banter. The best we get here is a talented Hall and a less than impressive Mitchell-Smith. In fact he is so devoid of character or humour that scenes with him are a bit of chore to watch. Bill Paxton is as over-the-top as you can get as Chet, but the ‘toad scene’ is one of the stand-out moments in the film for its bizarreness. Kelly LeBrock is fine as Lisa, although her accent drifts from British royalty to American badass unconvincingly, which is a cause for annoyance.
Overall Weird Science is crazy, kooky and even a little bit zany. There are over-the-top and unnecessary scenes, but it is pure wish fulfillment. Which teenager never thought of creating the perfect partner who was completely loyal to them? It’s an area where John Hughes is a master and he is able to take a ridiculous plot and somehow make it work, although he does not have as much success with this as with his truly memorable films. For those that grew up with his films, this is a nostalgia-filled joy-ride, for everyone else it’s funny to a point.