80s Odyssey: Zapped (1982) & Teen Wolf (1985)

I’ve been on a real 80s movie kick since I watched Back To School and Just One Of The Guys. Since then, I’ve probably watched a dozen or so 80s flicks. I’ll be pairing some of them up and writing about them over the next few days and weeks. Zapped appealed to me instantly because, as longtime readers will remember, I am a big fan of Charles In Charge which also stars Scott Baio and Willie Aames.

The story behind Zapped actually reminds me a lot of a movie I saw when I was younger called School Spirit as both are R-rated teen comedies about a kid getting a certain kind of superpower and basically using it the way that a kid that age would. In this case, Scott Baio gets telekinesis after some of the chemicals in the lab he uses at school get mixed up and he ingests them.

There’s little touches here and there that made this film fun and quirky when it could have gotten tired and stale. Even before getting his powers, Baio is growing weed in the lab. His parents also think he’s on drugs and give him a really hard time until he controls a ventriloquist dummy to scare his mom and then she leaves him alone. Oh, Scatman Crothers also plays a coach in the movie and I always enjoy seeing him do his thing.

And, as you might expect, there’s plenty of T&A to go around. I was actually surprised that I didn’t remember this movie from my youthful days of watching USA’s Up All Night or Comedy Central’s T&A Matinee. Heck, the end of the movie finds everyone at prom and Baio going all Carrie, but instead of being pissed, he’s just ripping everyone’s clothes off. In my mind, I like to think that Baio and Aames changed their names, went on to college and wound up on Charles In Charge.

The theme for this post is “high school comedies about kids with strange abilities and the wackiness that ensure” in case you couldn’t tell. Unlike Zapped, I had, of course, seen Teen Wolf. I think it’s nearly impossible to be my age, had cable for a long time and not seen at least a part of the movie. In case you haven’t, though, basically Michael J. Fox is a nondescript teenager on a crappy basketball team who finds out that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Things actually start turning around for him when people find out about his secret (apparently, in addition to getting hairy and growing fangs, being a werewolf also makes you awesome at basketball). From there it turns into a question of identity and being true to yourself as Fox struggles between being the wolf that everybody loves and the boy Boof loves.

I think what sets Teen Wolf apart from movies like it is how differently they play everything. It runs out that Fox’s dad actually completely understands what he’s going through because he is also a werewolf (I love that scene where he opens the door and dad’s standing there in wolf mode too). I also like how no one really seems to care that he turns into a werewolf in the middle of a basketball game. Sure some people are a little weirded out, but they also don’t care because he’s actually good at the sport. I also love the character of Stiles in pretty much any incarnation I see him in. He’s that perfect 80s smooth operator that seems to be missing from modern movies. I think some actors make that guy too douchey for consumption, but Jerry Levine kills the role of ultimate party guy who everybody loves. We need more Stiles’ in our lives.

Like with Zapped and all movies like this that follow a somewhat formulaic plot (you know prom has to be involved and the lead has to like the popular girl while his female friend pines after him), Teen Wolf lives or dies based on the main character. Luckily for both flicks, both Baio and Fox are great at playing normal guys who you can either feel for or relate to. You feel kind of good when they get to be awesome and then feel bad for them when they take it too far, but then good again by the end when they redeem themselves.

I want to take a quick paragraph and talk about this Teen Wolf show that MTV’s got coming up soon. I’ve seen a few previews for it and it doesn’t look like my bag. I’m not one of those idiots who throws around terms like “raping my childhood” when things like this get remade. Not only do I find the very idea of the phrase to be repugnant and a wild misuse of a term, but someone making a new version of something you liked as a good should have no baring on your enjoyment of the original work. It’s still there. You can always watch the original Karate Kid or Teen Wolf and completely ignore the remakes. It’s as simple as that. All that being said, I the bits of the Teen Wolf show I’ve seen seem to take all the fun that was inherent in the movie out of the proceedings in order to make another cheap Twilight rip off. I said something like that to the missus the other day and she responded with something like “Kids today don’t want fun, they want brooding.” I hope that’s not true. I know movies like Teen Wolf and Zapped aren’t in vogue anymore, but they should be. Maybe teens aren’t as into comedy because the only things aimed at them are shows on the Disney channel and the occasional dramedy on TV like My Life As Liz. Where’s the Zapped, Teen Wolf or American Pie for this generation?

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