When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that might be Jack Nicholson turning into a wolf?
I’ve been promising to review this movie for years, and then it showed up on Prime and, well, here we are. It’s the “classy” mid-90s Jack Nicholson/Michelle Pfeiffer/James Spader werewolf movie, where the word “werewolf” is never uttered and there’s way less sexual psychodrama for a Mike Nichols movie than you might think. I mean, this dude made The Graduate! Closer! Carnal Knowledge! You’d really think Wolf would be sexier! It is not!
As with many of these films, I watched it once and I am not going to be rewatching it in order to recap it for you. I’m sorry, but there are only so many sacrifices I can make for my art. If by “art” I mean “making fun of bad movies, on the internet, and using AI to generate copyright-free images so I don’t get into trouble.” Which I do!
The images this time around, by the way, are screenshots of texts I exchanged with a couple of friends while watching the movie (they also hadn’t seen the film in decades), decorated with blurrgs, the official M&M mascot.
I have seen this film before, in about 1994, when it came to home video. I was, at the time, in the thrall of a massive crush on nerdy Stargate-edition James Spader and chasing down his other movies. I remembered very little about this film going into it again last week, beyond not really buying the Nicholson/Pfeiffer romance. What I discovered on this rewatch is that I still don’t buy their romance. But, like, I’m glad this weird movie exists? It’s like a prestige B-movie with a really ridiculously overpowered cast playing exactly to their strengths. These days, it’d be an eight-episode tv show. I dunno; maybe it should be an eight-episode tv show. How weird, and how wonderful, to have lived through a time when a movie like this, with star-power like this, could be made.
Right, so we open with Jack Nicholson playing “against type” as a mild-mannered editor. I hate saying “book editor” but I am also aware that there are lots of kinds of editors out there, so. He edits books. He’s a successful editor at a publishing house that’s just been bought by Christopher Plummer, of all people, who lives in some giant mansion in New England somewhere. As an editor myself, it is my God-given duty to point out that the set designer must have actually visited a publishing house; everyone has 57 copies of the same book on their bookcases and then piles of paper absolutely everywhere else. Hilariously, the “publishing house” set is decorated with about a billion of those 90s motivational posters; you know, the ones that say something like “teamwork” and show a bunch of parachutists holding hands.
While driving home through a snowy wood, Jack hits a wolf with his car; the wolf bites him and… well, before long, Jack can smell alcohol on his colleagues’ breath and James Spader’s scent on his wife’s clothes. Because, whoops, Spader is also playing “against type” as Jack’s best buddy and protegee. Except he’s angling for Jack’s job and schtupping Jack’s wife on the side.
Jack moves into a hotel, decides to ruin Spader’s life, and also wants to figure out what’s going on with his, you know, heightened senses and weird hair. He finds an old man who tells him that he’s basically turning into a wolf, and gives Jack an amulet to keep him from transforming (it… doesn’t?). He also says that he’s dying and then asks Jack to bite him so he can live forever. No, really.
Jack starts schtupping Christopher Plummer’s daughter, Michelle Pfeiffer, who is like a recovering drug addict who lives in a cottage on the grounds of her dad’s mansion. Y’know she’s a bad girl b/c she has a black widow tattooed on her shoulder. They bond over… stuff, though God knows what, since they have nothing in common, and Jack also occasionally leaves her bed to go bounding through the nearby woods, eating deer and then waking up covered in blood and totally disoriented.
He eventually tells Michelle what’s going on, and she’s like, uh, that’s the dumbest excuse for dipping out after sex I’ve ever heard. But she keeps sleeping with him. Very soundly, in fact, because he develops the habit of slipping out after the act to go roam around Central Park and howl. And then one day the police come knocking; someone has torn Jack’s cheating wife’s throat out! Since Jack once tore some muggers’ fingers off, he’s a little concerned he might be responsible, but Michelle’s all “no, he was here with me the whole time.” (He was not.)
Yes, you guessed it, Spader is also a wolf. Jack Nicholson bit him early on, you see. But as we know from our mystical dude up earlier, the wolf is only good or evil if the person is good or evil. And since Jack is a mild-mannered editor, and Spader is a slimy yuppie scumbag… well, yes, he’s a slimy yuppie wolfbag, now. So he ate Jack’s wife.
I really hope that the “hey, those are suede!” line was improvised, but either way, it’s hilarious.
Some more plot happens, but the important thing you need to know is that Spaderwolf wants to bang Michelle, but she’s locked Jackwolf up in a freaking stable so that he won’t hurt anyone while he’s in wolf-form, so there’s a deeply uncomfortable and extended fight sequence between Spaderwolf and Michelle Pfeiffer and then finally Jackwolf escapes and fights Spaderwolf, and in the end Michelle shoots Spaderwolf dead and then pops out of her sex cottage in heavy eyemakeup and with wolfy yellow eyes because… it turns out that sex can also transmit the wolf thing. The end.
So, like, is this movie… good? No. It’s actually quite slow, and there’s way less sex than you’d think, and honestly it’d be a much more interesting film if it were just Jack Nicholson, mild-mannered editor, vs James Spader, backstabbing yuppie scum, instead of Jackwolf v Spaderwolf. And it’d be even more fun if their roles were reversed and they were genuinely playing against type, but we can’t have everything. Michelle Pfeiffer’s entire character is… the hot younger woman. There’s no there there, much as she tries to bring some of her feral Catwoman energy to her role. Pity.
Monsters: Multiple werewolves (including the one that bit Jack and his or her pack), and also a nice example of classic Spader slime.
Mullets: Spader still has his Stargate hair, which is a little long at the back, but otherwise I can’t really make much out of the hair - or even the costumes, which are astonishingly boring - in this film.
Representation: Appalling. Abysmal. Atrocious. The only people of colour are three “gangsters” and a cop. The only two women with roles to speak of are Jack’s wife, who cheats and then dies, and Michelle Pfeiffer, who has nothing to work with. There’s a great female secretary character who gets, of course, about three lines. The “mystic” that Jack meets with is probably meant to be, sigh, “exotic” but who knows; that whole sequence is nuts.
Sequel and remakes: Nope. There’s hardly even any trivia on IMDB for this one!