When I reviewed the original Teen Wolf two years ago (how time flies…) I acknowledged that my appreciation for it was largely due to having a lot of nostalgia for the era in which was both filmed and set. As with Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf Too is a film I technically saw as a child, but had very little memory of — I could recall perhaps thirty seconds of the whole film before re-watching it this month. I was aware of its reputation as an inferior sequel, but that’s a claim made about so many movies it almost loses meaning. Nevertheless, perhaps I should have heeded the warning. Possibly I should have known that not even a healthy nostalgia filter could have saved this film.
Teen Wolf Too is only a sort-of sequel to the original. Rather than continuing to follow the adventures of Michael J. Fox’s Scott Howard, it shifts to his cousin, Todd, played by Jason Bateman. Fox had declined to reprise his role due to finding the makeup process difficult to sit through.
Unlike Scott, Todd is fully aware of his family’s werewolf heritage. He just thinks that it’s passed him by, as neither of his parents are werewolves (why he specifies both parents rather than just his father is a bit of a puzzler). But his Uncle Harold — Scott’s father, played by James Hampton reprising his role — warns him that it may yet come into play. Of course, it does precisely that, and Todd finds himself wolfing out and becoming a big man on the college campus as the teen wolf boxing sensation.
I’m not up on my boxing rules. Is changing weight class mid-match considered cheating?
The film loses a lot — in fact, it loses nearly everything positive — by not having Michael J. Fox. It’s not Jason Bateman’s fault; far from it, he’s actually quite entertaining in his role, and in a Fox-less universe one could see him working in the original film. The problem is that when director Christopher Leitch and writers Jeph Loeb and Matthew Wiseman saw they were going to have to erase Michael J. Fox’s name and write in Jason Bateman’s, they apparently decided to make their script the same way — erase one detail from the original film, and pencil in another. High school to college. Basketball to boxing. Boof to Nicki, played by Estee Chandler — still a nice girl, still a bit nerdy, still interested in supporting her boyfriend through his werewolf identity crisis, and still blaming the wolf for him being a jerk. Though this film at least has Todd acknowledge it’s not because of the wolf, it still follows the same “I have to do this as myself” flawed moral of the original. In fact, it follows just about everything note for note, including the dance party scene. It may as well not be a sequel, but a remake.
The film seems desperate to convince the audience that it’s a genuine sequel, however, bringing in characters from the first film that have connections with Scott — but aside from Harold, they have no prior connection with Todd. High school basketball coach Finstock, now played by Paul Sand, is now the boxing coach at the college, and it’s he who recruits Todd to the team, under the belief that Todd will wolf out. One of Todd’s teammates is Scott’s former teammate Chubby, played by Mark Holton reprising his role. It’s possible that somebody was looking to see this minor bit character take a larger role, but it’s doubtful. And, of course, there’s the return of Stiles. Everybody remembers Stiles, right? The character could have added a certain sense of fun and continuity to the picture, but he just seems flat and one-note here; he seems a little too much the same as before, which is ironic as he’s not played by the same actor. Stuart Fratkin replaces Jerry Levine in the role.
If you’re hanging your sequel’s continuity on a side character, at least try to get the same guy.
There are a couple new characters — genuinely new, not just name-swapped versions of prior characters — but they aren’t enough to make the film feel different. Kim Darby plays Todd’s faculty advisor, and this could perhaps have provided some interest to the film had the film ever spent more than five seconds on Todd’s academics. Meanwhile, John Astin plays the Dean of the college, obsessed with boxing and making sure that the college is brought to the peak of the sport (apparently boxing is serious business at this school.) He’s entertaining, but he never seems like more than a one-note character, and he only gets a few genuinely funny lines. When John Astin can’t save your script, your comedy has serious problems.
On a minor note, the film copies — as with everything else — the “Teen Wolf” merchandising phenomenon from the first film, with all the fans buying shirts that Stiles is selling and so forth. Like a few other sequels (Ghostbusters II comes to mind), the film chooses to use the film’s sequel-specific logo on the in-film merchandise. Thus, the t-shirts actually read “Teen Wolf Too”. It’s an odd decision, as the majority of the students at the college would have no idea who Scott Howard was, and thus would not be looking at Todd as a “Teen Wolf, Also” but simply as a “Teen Wolf” (assuming they even looked at him as a teen, considering he would be at the later end of that period.) Why would Stiles design the t-shirts that way, instead of just having them say “Teen Wolf” once again? The only thing I can think of is that it was done to aid in sales of real-world merchandise of the same, which means that Atlantic must have worked out a licensing deal with someone to produce the shirts and for stores to sell them. Given the way the film turned out, one can only assume this resulted in several irritated retailers.