Not to be confused with the 1973 Nathan Juran movie, this new Boy Who Cried Werewolf is a tween horror-comedy from the Nickelodeon kids channel. Well, horror might be too strong a word. Jordan Sands (Victoria Justice) is a sweet but geeky high school girl caring for her bratty prankster kid brother, Hunter (Chase Ellison), after their mother died and trying to get single dad David (Matt Winston) back in the dating game. Despite Jordan’s best efforts, the family are facing financial ruin and her social life is a disaster. One night a mysterious cloaked figure delivers a letter revealing they have inherited a Romanian castle from the late Great Uncle Dragomir. So it’s off to Wolfsberg, Romania, where sinister housekeeper Madame Varcolac (Brooke Shields) spooks everyone with the legend of the “Wolfsberg Beast” reputed to haunt the local woods. While David finds romance with perky estate agent Paulina (Brooke D’Orsay), the kids discover a secret laboratory hidden inside the castle. Here Jordan is infected by a strange blood-coloured formula labelled LB-217.
Overnight, Jordan blossoms into a graceful, confident young woman, super athletic and strong with a ravenous appetite for meat, despite hitherto being a vegetarian! Monster mad Hunter’s worst suspicions are confirmed one full moon when Jordan morphs into a howling, hairy werewolf. He and his sister then learn they must find some way to reverse the lycanthropic curse within twenty-four hours, or else Jordan will stay a werewolf forever.
There is a clever idea at the heart of this silly but lively tween monster romp given Jordan’s lycanthropic transformation mirrors exactly the sort of hormonal changes regular teenagers have to cope with. The set-up instantly recalls Teen Wolf (1985) but differs in one crucial aspect from that Eighties teen trash favourite, besides the obvious recasting of the protagonist as female. Movies like Teen Wolf and its ilk weave cautionary tales wherein the monstrous change briefly empower their heroes but ultimately alienate them from their peers. Quite often their stories end with characters reverting to normal only with renewned appreciation for who they have always been. Put simply: love yourself, but don’t stand too far out from the crowd. In The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, Jordan might not be keen on the whole sprouting fur and slavering canines aspect but embraces the more positive aspects of her changing demeanour. She grows more assertive, outspoken, capable and attractive, and frankly she likes it. Throughout the film, Jordan insists everyone learn to accept these changes as part of who she is now, whether it is Hunter’s suspicious monster fan friends (who urge him to shoot her with a silver bullet!) or hunky-but-klutzy love interest Goran (Steven Grayhm) who at one point complains she is not the same girl he fell for. She emerges a far stronger personality without having to apologise.
However, co-scripters Art Elder Brown and Douglas Sloan (both veterans of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, which explains the late swerve into monster battling territory) squander some of the potential in their core idea and prove rather lackadaisical in detailing the mystery. Many of their gags are shamelessly stolen from Young Frankenstein (1974), although who knew Brooke Shields could be such a hoot doing a creepy comedy Romanian routine?
Beautiful teen idol Victoria Justice is a hyper-manic delight, going from geek to chic, feisty and frisky while succumbing to crazy canine urges like frolicking in the park with other dogs or scarfing a plate full of sausages to her own moral disgust. The talented star of all-singing and dancing teen sitcom Victorious careers the film quite ably, shining through even its duller patches and performs a handful of musical numbers. Things pick up considerably with a late plot twist revealing the werewolf is not a menace but the ancestral protector of Wolfsberg against a legion of vampires out to conquer the world. We have a surprise villain, a visit to a vampire restaurant and some surprisingly badass monster battles. Ironically, the creature costumes created by horror veterans Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are more impressive than the CGI lycanthropes glimpsed in most grownup genre fare these days. It ends with entire cast - Brooke Shields, werewolves and all - singing “Baby, One More Time” by Britney Spears, whom Madame Varcolac earlier revealed is a werewolf. “That explains a lot”, quips Hunter.