Movie Review: Wolf – Throwback Tuesday Edition

First, why the fuck would I watch a cheese-tastic movie from the 90s starring Michelle Pfieffer and Jack Nicholson? I think you just answered your own question. Also all morphing into and out of wolves is strangely reminiscent of the “Thriller” video – so, that should also your question. Don’t you ever get a feeling like the only thing your night needs is a movie “made for adults” in the 90s? Think dumber than 9 ½ Weeks and lacking any of the joie de vivre inanity of Coppola’s Dracula and you have Wolf.

This movie was directed by Mike Nichols so right off the bat you should know everything’s going to look ridiculously theatrical even when it shouldn’t. Only Closer feels like a Mike Nichols’ movie and not a stage-to-screen literalization like everything else even when it’s not even based on anything (pass to The Graduate and Angels in America for sheer brilliance). It’s not that he’s a bad director, he makes beautiful movies with amazing performances, he just doesn’t make good horror movies. Wolf is something that probably should have never been made. It’s never really scary, sexy, or alluring but it’s always cheesy, ridiculous, and laughably stupid without any laughs.

We follow Will Randall (Jack Nicholson), a calm and mild-mannered man, who accidentally hits a wolf during a snow storm. The wolf ends up biting him and sure enough, he starts turning into one. This, naturally, has repercussions in his personal life. Resigned to the fact that he was going to lose his job to his protégé (James Spader – always slimy), he soon discovers that said protégé has also been fucking his wife so he wants revenge by getting his old job back…in publishing. But this was the 90s. Also, isn’t it great when Hollywood makes the heroes and villains so easy to root for and against? Here Spader plays someone who not only stole an old man’s job he also fucked his old-ass wife. Awful. The moment they have the slightest nuanced characterization of any villain or hero, people usually root for the villain. Ponderous. Anyways, he starts turning into a wolf, gets back at his protégé, and fucks his boss’ daughter while leaving his wife. All in all, pretty good for a late 50s man. But of course, all is not well, and soon other people he’s come into contact with also turn into wolves. This leads to the only good part of the movie – the closing Lisa Frank sequence complete with muppet wolf.

Pfieffer channels her inner wolf bitch

Pfieffer morphs into an animatronic puppet wolf? Or she communicates with one? Something.

Wolf is terrible. It is a truly awful movie with not much going for it (no humor, no horror, no good action scenes) except that the pace is quick as we hurtle along. The only marginally not terrible things about it are James Spader as a remnant of the 80s yuppie douche bag (even though this movie came out in 1994), except now he’s passive aggressive and sniveling too (there’s the 90s charm)! And of course, the incomparable Michelle Pfieffer, who plays the role of the boss’ daughter. She brings an assured, recovering yet slightly vulnerable, coke-whore delight to a movie that clearly has no use for its female characters. Watch how she interacts with the cops – total druggie. Oh La Pfieffer – why are you in so many truly fucking disdainfully bad movies unworthy of your talents.

This movie proves a lot of things. Good directors and good actors don’t always make a good movie. I will always see movies starring Michelle Pfieffer for the occasional Batman Returns/Fabulous Baker Boys gem. I regret most of the movies with Michelle Pfieffer I’ve seen. James Spader will always play creepy because that’s all I can ever imagine him as. Maybe CGI isn’t so bad – and here, based solely off Jurassic Park – I thought puppeteering was the best way to achieve special effects.

*½/****

[Wolf is Rated R for language and werewolf attacks. It stars Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfieffer, and James Spader. Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick.]



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