Disclaimer: I love this movie, but most of it makes absolutely no sense.
A teenage girl is complex only in her simplicity. The formula for which is as followers: begin with an unmanageable bag of hormones, throw in some daddy issues, some extreme self-centered short-sightedness, add an obsession with social status, and what you get is the prototype for every female lead in a teen film. You also get the driving plot device for one of my favorite films, Teen Witch, the 1989 flop-turned-cult-classic starring Robyn Lively.
The premise centers on Louise Miller, the unfortunate bearer of a lame teenage existence; who yearns for the flashy, exciting life of having a boyfriend—but not just any boyfriend—the most built, unattainable, and uninteresting 26-year-old in the senior class. All of this changes when Louise meets an ancient baby in a feathered turban, who informs her that she is “one of them,” a witch who will get her powers on her 16th birthday. Louise gets the hell out of there because the woman is clearly on bath salts.
But then, like all puberty based powers, her gifts ascend upon her, presumably at the strike of midnight, while thunderclaps. The movie spends way too much time building up to Louise realizing she has magic, and by magic I mean the ability to make any old, wayward desire a reality. Her godlike powers include: disintegrating her meninist date; turning her sexually-ambiguous sibling into a dog; transforming frogs into hunks for her ancient, horny-baby sensei; creating stacks of twenties out of coal, and storms out of thin air. So now Louise has more power than Jesus, and what’s the first thing she wants to do with it? Boyfriend—Duh.
The film continues from there with about an hour and a half of gratuitous wish fulfillment, granted by Louise for her friends who arguably don’t deserve it (and who also never indicated they wanted these things to begin with), and best of all: Louise casting a spell that makes her popular to the point of amassing a cult-like following of students. And like all high school movies made for teenage girls, the film culminates to the very crook of their existence: the Prom, complete with two separate choreographed dance numbers.
Teen Witch is a terrific film, but, like anything involving witchcraft and 80’s teenagers, it has a whole bunch of nonsense mixed in.
1. Louise’s mom is clearly on antidepressants.
Louise’s mom is one of the first faces we see, and it’s a medicated one at that. For the entire length of the film, Momma Miller is constantly smiling and talking to herself—either because her husband is ignoring her, or just because she feels like it. Sometimes she is even talking to a doll.
2. Is the umbrella a metaphor for a penis or a condom? THIS. IS. IMPORTANT.
The poor substitute teacher put in charge of sexual education is tragic. She probably has never seen a penis, yet equates one to a closed umbrella. Then she launches into a diatribe about condom usage and again brings the umbrella into the demonstration. So which is it, lady?
Side note: Louise isn’t even in the class, so what was the point of the scene? Does it even contribute to the central plot? Well Mr. Smarty Pants, how can it when there is no plot?
3. Louise’s BFF is an awful friend.
Actually, every character in this film is a bad friend, including Louise. Polly doesn’t make it to Louise’s birthday party, Louise dumps Polly the moment she becomes popular, all the popular girls secretly hate each other, and Brad ditches Ronda the moment Louise king-of-the-hills herself to Most Popular Girl status.
4. Louise’s mom buys her shitty clothes because she is jealous of her youth.
She makes Louise carry a fucking diaper bag for the first half of the film (and somehow keeps a straight face when calling it a purse) and then forces her to wear an Amish-length skirt and sweatshirt to the Halloween Dance. A SWEATSHIRT.
5. The seasonal pacing makes absolutely no sense.
Louise and Polly go to school in winter jackets at the start of the film, while everyone else is in skirts and driving around with their convertible tops down. We also go from the Halloween Dance to talking about how Prom is only a week away, literally the next day. Laziness.
6. Don’t ever let an attractive stranger take you out of the country, even if he says he’s a Count.
Ms. Malloy should know better, she’s an adult and an educator. I guess I underestimated the crazy factor of redheads. Also, Louise, don’t go in that abandoned crack house with some dude who is acting hella sketchy, Girl. What are you thinking? Every 80’s teen film has a weird subplot wherein women make ridiculously poor choices, that somehow, against all odds, don’t end in rape, or it does, and we just don’t talk about it. We can thank John Hughes for that one.
7. Does Louise not feel any guilt about taking Shana’s Lucky Jacket?
Midway through Louise’s misanthropic journey, she uses her powers to make fictitious pop-star Shana (think: Robin Sparkles) hand over her, quote: “lucky jacket,” that she has had since her first album so that she can cast a spell to make herself more popular. Then in the subsequent scene, her ritual-spinning (?) completely destroys the jacket. What gives you the right?
8. White rapping was a thing.
Real talk, this movie is whiter than Pride and Prejudice. It’s also worth mentioning, that like a plethora of other 80’s films (The Labyrinth for starters), Teen Witch is at its core just a really long music video. The infamous “Top That” scene is the epitome of this because while it is a product of Louise’s gratuitous wish fulfillment, it makes no sense thematically.
9. Louise and Brad are cheaters.
Even though Louise is constantly complaining that she doesn’t want to use magic to make Brad like her, all she does is use magic to make Brad like her. Clearly the spells weren’t that strong to begin with, because up until the final frame of the film Brad is still very much with Randa (yes, her names is Randa—RANDA), who is probably in the bathroom still complaining about her dad not buying her a car, while the climactic scene plays itself out.
This aspect of the film is further driven home by the fact that the actors portraying the aforementioned Brad and Randa, got married to one another upon the completion of filming Teen Witch, and are still together 30 years later.
10. This film has no resolution.
Well then, seeing as the movie had no plot, I guess it’s not bound by the constraints of one. Louise and Polly still haven’t made up, Brad still isn’t technically Louise’s boyfriend, and that whole popularity spell thing I guess might be resolved because she threw her necklace Titanic style at the feet of Madame Tiny Pants??? Was that a symbol for her giving up her powers? Who knows!
In Conclusion: Teen Witch is still a dope film, although I guess we shouldn’t call it that because of that pesky little fact that it has no plot. I’m just going to start referring to it as a visual album (#sorrynotsorry Beyoncé). Also, god bless my future husband, who will be forced into recreating the iconic “Finest Hour” choreography with me, for our First Dance (trivia fact: Robyn Lively and her little brother performed it at Blake Lively wedding to Ryan Reynolds, because it was her favorite movie as a kid, LOL).
P.S. Does anyone know if Randa’s cousin ever un-disappeared?