Wolf, Wolves and More Wolves

One of the biggest surprises of my summer so far has been discovering my son Cullen has been watching Teen Wolf, a show I find incredibly confusing. (But not as confusing as Vampire Diaries.) He had been watching the series, which is loosely based on the film of the same name starring Michael J. Fox, but had never seen the source material. So we watched Teen Wolf the movie, which led to Teen Wolf Too, which led to me looking up every film I could find that was airing with the word wolf in the title. So then we saw a super terrible film called Wolf Town and finally one of his favorites from when he was little, Never Cry Wolf.

The original Teen Wolf movie was pretty silly but also a lot of fun. Michael J. Fox plays Scott, a young man who is on a losing basketball team, has a giant crush on a generic blonde popular girl, and never notices that his friend Boof (Susan Ursitti) has feelings for him. His buddy Stiles, played by Jerry Levine, is completely ridiculous, in a mildly endearing way. Stiles does stuff like lock Scott and Boof into a closet for what looks like a rousing game of Seven Minutes in Heaven, car surf and otherwise get into or incite trouble. These characters are very different in the TV show – in fact Boof doesn't exist in the series, which is more dramatic and less goofy, or at least it's goofy in a different way. I kind of miss Stiles' silliness.

The Teen Wolf series is darker than the original film, but the makeup is worse, if such a thing is possible. Also different is how Scott werewolf origin story. In the film it's a hereditary thing that his father just hasn't gotten around to telling him about. In the series Scott is bitten in the series premiere and Stiles is the one to figure out what all the clues and symptoms mean. I'm going to have to watch the rest of season one before I can comment further. I wouldn't recommend doing what I did and trying to jump in during season two, because it's very confusing. With most other serial television you can get an idea of what's going on pretty quickly, ie Buffy is killing vamps while also serially dating them, everyone on Dallas is eternally feuding, the characters on Warehouse 13 are trying to protect the world from artifacts and maybe keep the warehouse from being destroyed again, but I didn't find Teen Wolf the series that easy to figure out.

Teen Wolf Too, the second film in the franchise, gets one star on my cable company's rating system, which is possibly too generous. The character arc is the same as Teen Wolf - character is in school, is mediocre at sports, likes a flashy dame who is "out of his league", pals around with a still beautiful but supposedly less attractive "girl next door", then turns into a werewolf. He becomes awesome at sports (basketball in the first film, boxing in the second and lacrosse in the TV show), everyone loves him, the power goes to his head, he acts like a jerk (hitting a bicyclist on purpose in the sequel), sleeps with the flashy dame, then eventually gets his act together, ends up rejecting his wolf half and getting together with the girl next door.

So it's essentially the same story done twice, but once super terribly. Now I wonder was Teen Wolf Too the first draft of Teen Wolf? The writers got feedback, made it better, made a fun film that is pretty silly and then a couple of years later made the original version, with a few changes? I think it's completely possible.

Which brings us to Wolf Town, which is so, so, so bad. It's about four college students who go off to a ghost town, because one of them wants to date one of the others – I know, God forbid he should just ask her out or notice her existing boyfriend. Sadly for them the town has more wolves than gold and has apparently been infested by these wolves for more than one hundred and fifty years. It's a terrible movie but it might be worth fast forwarding to the scenes where the wolves, which look a lot like my dog, “menace” the students. If you know much about dog psychology you'll be charmed by the body language of the animals as they look off screen to their trainers and give us signals saying they are in a playful mood.

Never Cry Wolf is a terrific film about a biologist who travels to the Arctic for an extended stay. He is studying wolves, which are believed to be the reason behind a caribou die off. He comes up with a surprising hypothesis, which he tries to prove by using himself as a test subject, with hilarious results. This is a beautiful film that is deeply moving but be careful showing it to youngsters as there are some very sad parts.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is from the Lawrence Public Library, which has put together a terrific guide to finding new YA for fans of the Hunger Games. It covers a variety of interests and is quite in depth. You can access it here: http://www.lawrence.lib.ks.us/2012/07/if-you-liked-the-hunger-games-3/.