Bland, pretty reboot is no 'Vampire Diaries' and no Michael J. Fox 'Teen Wolf'
I don't want it to consume my entire review, but since I've been ranting about it for nearly a year at this point, I'm absolutely comfortable with allowing it to consume my entire intro:
If you want to make a serious drama about counselors and kids at a summer camp, ending with a triumphant and straight-faced victory at their annual color wars competition? That's fine. It just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. But don't call your project "Meatballs."
If you have a Mitch Albom-style tear-jerker you want to do focusing on a wealthy, obnoxious businessman who returns to university in order to encourage his son to progress his education? That's fine. It just doesn't matter. But don't call your project "Back to School."
If you have an epic outer space western about a gang of rag-tag underdogs who attempt to save a princess, in which the main hero discovers he has a shared family history with the main villain, a man in a dark helmet, with a dark cape? And you want to tell an unwinking Joseph Campbell-style journey? Well, you may have to deal with George Lucas' lawyers, but you won't get a quibble from me. But you know what I'd prefer you not do? Don't call your project "Spaceballs."
I don't think my requests here are unreasonable.
If you wish to latch onto what you imagine to be a marketable title of a project from my youth like a mindless parasite, at least show a wee bit of respect to the audience whose insatiable nostalgia you're catering to or counting on. Don't keep one or two names and a tiny part of the backdrop while totally overhauling the tone, mythology or structure. If you need to do that, why not just give your characters original names and give your project its own title. Why not roll the dice on your own ability to be creative in titling and promoting your series and allowing it to stand on its own four paws without risking the ire of bitter Gen Y-ers with blogs? Oh right. You can't, because your entire project is the fruit of creative laziness to begin with and you're counting on a familiar name to do what originality and freshness might have done in the past.
In short: Yo, MTV. If you want to remake "Teen Wolf," please respect that the original movie was a loosely structured horror-comedy about a likable Everyman who comes from a family with an Everywolf past and who uses his new-found lycanthropic skills to play basketball and do theater, but eventually learns self-confidence without howling at the moon. I'm pretty wedded to the specifics of the 1985 Michael J. Fox feature, but I acknowledge that accommodations probably need to be made to bring the story to the 21st Century. With that in mind, as long as you understand that the reason "Teen Wolf" was a hit was its absurd comic charm and the goofball transformation of its diminutive Canadian leading man, we'll be aces. Oh and if you could also make sure that the main character has an adorable female friend named "Boof," that would probably also be ideal.
Because, you see, it's not like the world has a shortage of werewolf stories with a tortured, dramatic backdrop. Suddenly discovering that every full moon you get hairy, fangy and violent could be a disturbing transformation. I wouldn't deny that for a second. That's just not what "Teen Wolf" is. "Teen Wolf" is about learning you have a family curse and using that curse to slam dunk a basketball, purchase beer by the keg, surf on the roof of a van and grab the boob of the previously unobtainable cheerleader, before realizing that you're cool enough and assertive enough to do all of those things as a less hirsute Canuck. That is what the primary ethos of "Teen Wolf" is. If you don't get that, you're making something that isn't "Teen Wolf."
It's possible that what you're spiritually remaking is the 1957 Michael Landon classic "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," which wasn't a silly comedy and also had a catchy and easily re-digestible name that's probably equally meaningless to MTV's core demographic of 15-year-old pregnant teens. It's a minor irony that in 2011, the title of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" -- a drama in its original incarnation -- probably conveys only comedy, while "Teen Wolf" -- a comedy in its original incarnation -- has been deemed viable as a drama, but MTV's core demo doesn't understand irony particularly well. Either way, you're not remaking "Teen Wolf." So why not drop the one or two similar character names and, of course, the title and see if your project can seduce viewers on its own merits? After all, it's obvious that you don't especially like or respect "Teen Wolf," so how do you think it makes you look to rely so heavily on the title of something you clearly feel superior to?
That's it for that. MTV's "Teen Wolf," which premieres on Sunday (June 5) night after the MTV Movie Awards isn't "Teen Wolf." It isn't even "Teen Wolf For a New Generation" unless MTV is convinced that the "new generation" doesn't have a sense of humor. It's MTV misappropriating an established title because buying a title and its possible brand visibility is easier and cheaper than convincing viewers to watch "Lacrosse Lupus" or "WereStud" or "9021Oooooooooo" or "Pretty Little Lycans."
Having dedicated my entire intro to making it clear what MTV's "Teen Wolf" isn't, click through for a review that may get into what MTV's Teen Wolf" actually is.