Saturday, August 1, 2020

Reminiscing on 35 Years of 'Weird Science'

Uncommon Journalism's Kristen M. Gilotti waxes nostalgic on one of the most beloved cult classic comedies of the '80s


A heartfelt ode to John Hughes' iconic 1985 sci-fi farce, three and a half decades later...

By: Kristen M. Gilotti

The world of fiction is often an amusing reverie, considering all the ups and downs one experiences when encountering reality. Daily life occurrences include diverse adventures and rewards, but also rejections, failures and other types of conflicts. But as Weird Science protagonists Gary Wallace and Wyatt Donnelly demonstrate, amazing turnarounds do indeed happen — even if you have to create them yourself.

It is utterly mind-blowing how one of my favorite comedy and fantasy movies, directed and screenplayed by John Hughes, was released on Aug. 2, 1985. When I was introduced to Weird Science, I was captivated by how zeroes turned heroes Gary and Wyatt transformed from unpopular outcasts to sophisticated social experts in just one weekend; and what better way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the beloved cult classic than by analyzing the film's most iconic (and hilarious) scenes?

The film offers several great comedic moments: snowing in the bedroom, freezing Wyatt’s grandparents in the closet and even altering Gary’s father’s mind to the extent where he was unaware that he had a son. However, the four scenes that I will elaborate focus on Gary and Wyatt’s changing personalities and lifestyles — additionally, they are also the most entertaining and memorable highlights of the movie.

Well, it certainly gives new meaning to the term "computer dating!"


The "Birth" of Lisa!

Gary and Wyatt face a ‘reality bites’ situation as Ian and Max, their main tormenters, humiliate them in front of Deb and Hilly, their current crushes, on a Friday afternoon at Shermer High School in Shermer, Ill. By the way, the school and town are also feaured in John Hughes' other movies, such as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.

That same night, inspired by the 1931classic Frankenstein, Gary suggests creating a woman on Wyatt’s computer to aid them with their antisocial lives. Although reluctant about the idea, the boys gather their self-esteem and hack into a government computer system, cut out body parts from Playboy magazines and reproduce the brain of Albert Einstein.  

The computerized invention ties in with Weird Science’s famous tagline, “If you can’t get a date, make one!” Gary and Wyatt also hook up electrodes to a doll on top of a Life board game and place bras on their heads to ensure more power — Gary insists that wearing the bras are “ceremonial.” After experiencing some illegal and untidy actions, the boys create Lisa, a perfect dream woman with magical powers. Gary and Wyatt are initially dismayed, but they soon realize that Lisa is the beginning of their new life. On a side note, Lisa got her name from an Apple Computer — one of the first personal devices to have a graphical user interface — which was released on Jan. 19, 1983.

Jeez, John Hughes sure had a fondness for these jazz club scenes, didn't he?

The Trip to The Kandy Bar!

Gary, Wyatt and Lisa attend The Kandy Bar, a dive pub in Chicago. Lisa uses her powers to manipulate the patrons believing that the boys are 21-year-olds and urges them to have a great time. At first, Gary is uptight and socially awkward, resulting in intense silence and puzzled glances from the older men. After a few cigars and shots of Blind Dog Bourbon, Gary loudly converses as a jive pimp (based upon Richard Pryor movies that John Hughes watched in his spare time) until closing at The Kandy Bar. Afterwards, Wyatt clumsily drives them back home without a learner’s permit. This uproarious scene was Lisa’s clever, but also deceiving way to loosen up the boys.

Is it really a party unless Michael Berryman shows up unannounced?

The Party Scene!

I will now critique the wild party at Wyatt’s house that occurs the next evening. By this point, Gary and Wyatt’s new appearances and behaviors are dramatically emphasized as they wear stylish clothes, spike up their hair and are now able to publicly show affection toward Lisa, particularly in front of Ian and Max. The bullies are now obsessed with the striking woman and apologize to Gary and Wyatt by attempting to make a deal: they can date Deb and Hilly, while Ian and Max have Lisa.

Although Gary and Wyatt refuse to give her up, they show their former tormenters how Kelly LeBrock's iconic character was created. Unfortunately, the invention fails, which causes chaotic incidents at the party: house accessories fly in the yard, people get stuck in the television, the kitchen turns blue, and a real Pershing II medium-range ballistic missile appears in the house. Wyatt is hysterical and Lisa scolds the boys for forgetting to hook up the doll, but most importantly, for being unwilling to stand up for themselves. My favorite "lesson-learned" quote from Lisa in Weird Science is when she said “You had to show off. When are you gonna learn that people will like you for who you are, not for what you can give them?"

Afterwards, Lisa uses her mystical powers to invite obnoxious biker mutants into Wyatt’s house. She believes the boys have confidence and accountability; however, they have already locked themselves in the closet. The mutants break the door and taunt Gary and Wyatt for being petrified and uptight. When the intruders hold Deb and Hilly hostage, the boys use their willpower to defend themselves and the party guests. They steal the mutants’ weapons, curse at them, and courageously force them to leave.  When Gary — thinking he has a water gun — fires at the chandelier, he and Wyatt realize that they defeated their worst enemies and have become popular studs. As a romantic result, Deb and Hilly reciprocate their feelings for them and the boys are flattered to finally be in love.

But really, who HASN'T wanted to turn one of their siblings into a turd monster at some point in their lives?

The Grand Finale!

The fourth and last scene of the film involves karma and sadness. On Sunday morning, Lisa turns Chet, Wyatt’s arrogant older brother, into a farting, fly-eating, blob-like monster. This uncomfortable transformation is payback for hostility towards Wyatt, blackmailing him for money and other torturous actions. Although Wyatt is relieved that Chet’s aggressive behavior ceased, he insists that he can not remain a blob. “It would ruin Christmas,” he explains to Lisa.

Gary and Wyatt sorrowfully confess about their new girlfriends to Lisa, who tearfully does not want to bid farewell, but is also relieved that her mission with the boys is successfully accomplished. Lisa magically disappears and the house returns to normal with all the utilities and furniture scrambling back to their former places. Additionally, Chet converts back to his human, militaristic self. The now strong-willed Gary and Wyatt ponder about what happened the past three days before Wyatt’s parents return from being out of town, completely unaware of all the incidents.

Oh, Gary. We're ALL disappointed in you ...
Oh, Gary, we're ALL so disappointed in you ...

Whether I’m watching Weird Science or listening to the upbeat soundtrack, including the title song “Weird Science” written and performed by Oingo Boingo, “The Circle” by Max Carl and “Turn It On” sung by Kim Wilde, I’m still a crazed fan. Weird Science provides so much nostalgia and I always look forward to this charming comedy/science fiction film. I value the fictional story because I was somewhat introverted in high school. I always envisioned of what it was like to be more outgoing and brave by magically transitioning in a day. I wondered how the fantasy would turn into reality….or, like the heroes in Weird Science, if I should be more cautious about what I wished. 

As a fun fact, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Michael Hall, who respectively portrayed Gary Wallace, at Dragon*Con 2012. He was very professional, energetic and appreciated the compliments I gave him on his work for the film. When it was time to pause for a picture, I irresistibly shouted out, “I can’t believe this!” His actions involved patting me on the back and giving a flirtatious smile before I squeezed through the other overcrowded lines in the Hall of Fame.

Uncommon Journalism, 2020

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