Was there a teenage boy alive who watched Kelly Le Brock’s character being brought to life in the film Weird Science who, even though they knew it wasn’t real, didn’t furtively turn to their computers afterwards in the hope that they’d be the one to figure out a program that could actually create a real, live lady?
Released in 1985 it obviously looks dated now (although I’m not sure the enormous computer bank set ups in any films of that decade ever looked realistically modern…) but its themes stay resoundingly relatable: a film created for every awkward teenager who can’t attract romantic attention, who feels unpopular at school and who fantasises about somebody who they think is completely out of their league.
Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall, who also starred in the other memorable 80’s films The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, both with the fabulous Molly Ringwald) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who left the acting world in the early 1990s to concentrate on academia) are archetypal geeks. They spend a lot of their school time drooling over the glamorous girlfriends of bullies Max (played by Robert Rusler, who is better known for his role in Babylon 5) and Ian (a very youthful Robert Downey, Jr.) for which they get roundly degraded in front of their peers.
Gary takes this hard and is determined to get more out of his unsatisfactory life. The more extravert of the two he decides that, in order to show everybody that they are capable of pulling women like Hilly (what kind of name is that?) and Deb, they need to drastically increase their popularity. Wyatt is, by nature, given to not drawing attention to himself so needs some convincing but eventually agrees to go along with Gary’s plan. Although, as the plan is to create an attractive female using mid-80’s very basic technology, perhaps his initial concerns were more along the lines of ‘have you gone insane Gary?’
This, Weird Science being a film which doesn’t dwell much on the actual technicalities of these things, shows ‘making a woman’ to be both a very complex procedure (requiring you to hack into the U.S. government’s computer system) and an extremely simple one (attaching some electrodes to a plastic doll and speaking in tongues while wearing bras on their heads). And as they are both libidinous adolescents they concentrate far more on ensuring that her attributes (read ‘boobs’) are the right size than anything else. ‘Give her a brain’ is about as far as they consult on her intellect.
And does their amazing computer wizardry work? Well, the ‘science’ bit goes all ‘weird’ and a large electrical storm starts knocking the house about but yes, it works. Not only is their creation alive and with all her bits in the right places, she is also older than them and crazily beautiful (and played by Kelly Le Brock who starred as a beautiful pants-flasher in Gene Wilder’s The Woman in Red and a beautiful nurse in Hard to Kill, with husband-for-a-while Steven Seagal). Wyatt’s home gets trashed (his parents are, handily, away for the weekend) as well as quite a lot of their neighbourhood during the process but that’s clearly a minor thing, compared with the fact that they now own a real, grown up woman who’s only wearing a cut off top and tiny pants (that’s what the doll was wearing, see?).
The boys are both thrilled and completely intimidated (the gratuitous – and slightly disturbing given their respective ages - shower scene is a good example of this). The newly named Lisa is a definite cut above the high school girls they are used to dreaming about; she is thoroughly mature and thankfully she has somehow turned up with intelligence as well. And now that she is here, she is going to change their sad little lives for the better, with or without their agreement.
Along with her looks and brain power she also appears to have some special abilities as well. She magically creates a convertible car to take the boys to a bar and has no trouble convincing everybody that they are above drinking age, despite them looking nowhere near this. The boys get drunk; Gary indulges in a fairly misogynistic conversation with some dubious men before falling off his chair and Lisa declares that the ‘party’s over’ and takes them home.
Back at Wyatt’s house we meet his older brother Chet (Bill Paxton). He’s obnoxious and is a fan of brutishly bullying the pair. Chet threatens to tell their parents that he’s been drinking and blackmails Wyatt by taking money for keeping quiet. Lisa, despite being the perfect person to put him in his place, stays hidden and watches how they are unable to deal with the situation. She later sees the pair humiliated in front of a shopping mall full of people when Ian and Max tip a drink over their heads from an upper level and decides that she is going to take charge of things in order to help them regain some credability.
She announces a party at Wyatt’s house that evening – something the boys were unaware was happening until that moment and something that Wyatt thinks in no way is a good idea – and then summons up a flash Porsche for the three of them to drive off in. That same day she meets and shocks Gary’s parents who don’t find her blunt conversation all that charming so she pulls an (admittedly fake) gun on them and then erases their recent memories so they forget the exchange ever happened. In Gary’s dad’s case the memory removal goes a little far and he has no recollection of his son whatsoever. Oops.
As the party progresses it starts to get wild. Gary and Wyatt embarrass themselves as usual and then get scared and hide. They give themselves a talking to, telling each other that they need to relax and have a good time, unawares that downstairs Wyatt’s grandparents have turned up. Lisa freezes them and pops them into a nearby cupboard so they don’t spoil the vibe of the bash.
Ian and Max are – understandably – curious about Lisa’s origins and persuade Gary and Wyatt to do their stuff again. Under pressure they forget to connect up the doll and this time the electrodes are resting on a magazine picture of a ballistic missile (of course they are). I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Needless to say, Lisa isn’t impressed that the boys are showing off.
Still pondering about how to improve their confidence with actual, real girls she decides the best course of action is to send a crew of violent bikers into the party (well, who wouldn’t think that?) so that they can act all brave and send them packing. Gary and Wyatt aren’t too keen on this idea to begin with but when the gang kidnap Deb and Hilly they take their new dose of courage, as well as Lisa’s fake gun, and tell the leather-clad men where to go. The girls are released peacefully and the bikers take their leave. Gary also discovers that the gun is no longer an imitation, when he unintentionally fires off a bullet. This is plainly the kind of thing that influences hot teenage girls and Hilly and Debs are now looking at Wyatt and his friend in a whole new light. Result!
The next morning reveals exactly how damaged the house is (the usual party detritus plus that big ol’ missile poking up through the floorboards) and Lisa sends the boys off in flash cars to take the girls home. While they’re gone Lisa takes the chance to have a little discussion with Chet, who naturally wasn’t too pleased when he discovered what Wyatt and Gary had been up to the night before. Too thick-headed to have a reasoned debate with her, she turns him into some kind of slimy, stinking monstrous blob which is weirdly effective: when the guys return Chet apologises to his brother.
Now that Wyatt and Gary are loved up, Lisa knows it’s her time to move on. She tells them that Chet will return to his former self - although now hopefully a nicer version - and as she goes the house repairs itself like new. All in time for Wyatt’s mum and dad to return and remain blissfully unaware of the last tumultuous 24 hours.
The film ends with a glimpse into Lisa’s new role – as a spandex-covered gym coach whose perfect physique causes her class of teen boys to faint in front of her.
Despite a range of reviews when the film was originally released, Weird Science is now considered a cult classic. Yes, the fashions and hair styles look ridiculous and yes, it was pretty backwards in its portrayal of women but John Hughes’ teen comedy was warm, funny and featured a great performance by Anthony Michael Hall throughout.
Technology’s moved on a lot since 1985 – wonder what I could create now with the UK government’s website, some jump leads and an Action Man?