Plot: What’s it about?
Movies of the 80’s seemed to focus on one thing: geeks. Those folks in high school who are now running the world. What’s that saying about karma? On a broader scale, the films of John Hughes exploded during the Reagan-era mainly because Hughes had a way of relating to teens and what they were going through. Weird Science completed a veritable “hat trick” for Hughes with Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club preceding it. The next year would see perhaps his most-loved film with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Everyone’s got their favorite Hughes film and I think that as the years have passed, this one might be mine.
Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mintchell-Smith) have had no luck breaking out of their geeky roles in school. They’re tormented by Ian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler) for admiring their girlfriends: Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson). At Wyatt’s house, whose parents have left for the weekend, they use Wyatt’s computer skills to design a program that simulates a woman so they might ask it questions. Through a series of unfortunate events, they manage to hack into a government computer system for more power and, viola, they’ve created a real woman who they name “Lisa” (Kelly LeBrock). Lisa possesses magical powers, is at the boys’ beck and call, and puts them on the fast track to becoming popular. Chaos and hilarity ensue.
Admittedly, Weird Science was a bit of a departure for Hughes and his films as it added a bit of fantasy to his usual angst. It worked. Anthony Michael Hall was already a household name with starring roles in National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, so his inclusion was a no-brainer. Add to that a great role for the late, great Bill Paxton as Wyatt’s brother and seeing Robert Downey Jr. in his mid 80’s form is something to behold (he was equally as good in Back to School playing essentially the same character as he did here). Movies like this don’t come around that often and John Hughes was able to capture lightning in a bottle with so many of his films. If, for some reason, this one has eluded you run, don’t walk, to check it out.
Video: How’s it look?
I’ve never figured out why studios spend time and money to do a new 4K transfer, only to have the content not contain an actual 4K disc. This film was given a pretty proper treatment for its Blu-ray release (by Arrow) in 2019 and now a few years later we’ve got an actual 4K disc. However, on the more “realistic” side, I have to say that even as good as it looks, it’s still not quite as stunning as I’d have hoped. The palette used is a bit pale and muted, though some scenes do show a marked improvement. Granted, the film is nearly four decades old, but I’ve seen older films look better. This is, by no means, “bad” by and stretch, I simply think that we’ve become so spoiled by how good some films look, we overlook those that don’t seem their best. Detail has been improved, colors do show a bit of improvement (compare it with the included edited for TV version) and, again, this is the best the movie has ever looked. I’ve seen it on nearly every format imaginable.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio track has a few moments of greatness, but this isn’t one that you’ll use to demo the extremes of your sound system. Vocals seem on the up and up and some ambient surround effects persist, but I’d classify this more as a good stereo mix as opposed to anything that’ll “put you in the center of the action.” As I was scrolling through the home screen perusing the extras, Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science” song plays in a continuous loop. I got sick of it after a few minutes. On the whole, it’s a modest mix that should satisfy, though there are certainly better-sounding films out there.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Edited for TV Version – Two additional scenes (available individually) are shown, though to comply with network television standards, it has been (as the feature details) edited for television. A nifty little split screen comparison shows some of the differences between the uncensored version and the one edited for television.
- Extended Scenes – The scenes that were added back into the extended cut are shown individually. The highlight of which is Gary and Wyatt watching Frankenstein (1933) on TV.
- Casting Weird Science with Jackie Burch – An all-new interview with casting director Jackie Burch, explaining how the film’s ensemble cast was assembled.
- Dino the Greek with John Kapelos – Another newly-filmed interview with actor John Kapelos on his experience playing Dino in the film.
- Chet Happens with Craig Reardon – A newly-filmed interview with special makeup effects creator CRaig Reardon on how the infamous “Chet-blob” effects were achieved.
- Fantasy and Microchips with Chris Lebenzon – Chris Lebenzon recounts his experience on the film as the movie’s editor. This is another new feature.
- Ira Newborn Makes The Score – Composer Ira Newborn documents his experience on the film with director John Hughes and producer Joel Silver.
- It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science – This archival feature produced for the 2008 DVD features interviews with the cast and crew as well as with star Anthony Michael Hall.
- Theatrical Teaser
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Image Galleries
- Illustrated Booklet – Similar to what’s found in a Criterion release, there’s an illustrated booklet with some images from the film, influences from the comic as well as some notes about the restoration.
The Bottom Line
I’ve come to the realization that some of my favorite movies came from the 80’s. And I’m OK with that. The films of John Hughes spoke to teens then as I expect they do now. Yes, some are bit dated, but a movie like Weird Science is chock full of nostalgia. If, for some reason, you didn’t pick up the Blu-ray set from a few years back, this is certainly the one to get. But, for me, I don’t think I can recommend shelling out more money for a marginally better picture. They should just “do it right the first time” but ultimately it’s your call.