John Hughes’ juvenile take on Mary Poppins and genies should really be more problematic than it often is.
Released in 1985, the film pandered to boyish nerd fantasies. It focuses on downtrodden super nerds Wyatt and Gary. Both are obsessed with girls while being relentless humiliated by bullies. It is, of course a common trope meant to garner sympathy. Anthony Michael Hall had not yet broken free of the nerd role established in Sixteen Candles. The same year Weird Science was released, Hall was in Hughes’ the Breakfast Club with a bit more thoughtful approach to this type of character. But his Gary is in the Nerd Who Wants to Be Popular vein.
So when so when his best friend Wyatt’s family is out of town for a weekend, the hijinks begin. Truthfully, Ilan Mitchell-Smith’s Wyatt is more sympathetic. He is steamrolled by everyone. He is less concerned about being popular than just succeeding and getting the girl.
To try and figure out their problems with girls, they decide to put their genius to use and create a girl to question on their computer. It all gets out of hand and somehow they manage to create a real woman. Kind of. Kelly LeBrock’s Lisa is a teen boy’s fantasy woman in every sense. Forward, sexy and she has magic powers. Somehow, they created a genie. And she is eager to please her masters. And this is where it should get tremendously troubling. Except, they are not confident of their role. Instead, Lisa takes over and starts making their decisions for them. She takes the stands they are scared to take. She takes them out on the town. She throws a party. She is protective of Gary and Wyatt, but wants to push them to be more assertive and not run away from adversity to cower in the bathroom.
The film certainly has it’s fun moments, and it has a good cast that help make it easier to ignore just how absurd the plot is. Bill Paxton as Wyatt’s jerk big brother Chet is especially memorable, including his comeuppance. But it also has some dull stretches. The jokes are often hit or miss. The party sequence is just bizarre, with an endless parade of absurd ideas for showing off effects.
All in all, this one of Hughes weaker efforts. It is mindless fun, but the heart that should be there is missing.