There aren’t many teen wolves in “Teen Wolf: The Movie,” but there is a pack of them in “Wolf Pack,” the series premiering the same day, from the same producer and on the same streaming service that is definitely not a spinoff of “Teen Wolf,” but rather adapted from a book series. If that sounds confusing, get in line, but either way, these two Paramount+ projects ultimately feel pretty toothless.
Having set its own course using the title of the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie, the series “Teen Wolf” took a more ambitious leap into a soap-opera-flavored world filled with assorted supernatural creatures – including werewolves, banshees, hellhounds and shapeshifters – running for six seasons on MTV, concluding in 2017.
“Teen Wolf: The Movie” brings back most of the characters, including the now-adult Tyler Posey, Crystal Reed and Tyler Hoechlin, who graduated from the supernatural to superhero as the star of “Superman & Lois” on the CW.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy and produced by Jeff Davis, “Teen Wolf” plunges back into the show’s mythology – including the fate of Allison (Reed), whose character died earlier in the series.
In an interview with SFX magazine, Davis likened the movie to a seventh season of the show, and at well over two hours, it feels that way. Yet the expansive format hasn’t appreciably improved the production values, which rely too much on stylized slow motion (and lots of glowing yellow eyes) in a way that deadens the action.
Any fans of the show howling for encore will likely welcome the “Fangs for the memories” nostalgia, as the characters reunite to face a new and mysterious threat. Even so, the executive falls flat, while the timing mostly feels calibrated to help launch Davis’ new venture, “Wolf Pack,” which awkwardly combines a young-adult sensibility with more explicit sex, language and violence.
In the strange set-up, a raging California wildfire snarls traffic, cutting off motorists that include a bus full of high-school students. During the ensuing chaos something feral and deadly emerges from the surrounding smoke, killing some of those unluckily trapped by the disaster and leaving two of the teens bitten.
Those teens, Everett (Armani Jackson) and Blake (Bella Shepard), begin to experience unexpected side effects from that encounter, ranging from new-found vitality to six-pack abs and a cure for acne. But they’re slow (very, very slow) to grasp what’s happening to them, which also involves a pair of siblings (Chloe Rose Robertson, Tyler Lawrence Gray) who hear the same call of the wild and know a lot more about what it means than Everett and Blake do.
The show also throws in a small supporting role for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who knows a little something about supernatural teen dramas, a means of garnering media attention with the added effect of making “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” aficionados feel middle aged. Gellar (who receives an executive producer credit) plays an arson investigator looking into the cause of the fire, convinced that Everett might know more than he’s letting on about who (or perhaps what) is responsible.
It’s hard to tell if Paramount has given “Wolf Pack” a dog-leg up or cursed it by pairing its arrival with “Teen Wolf,” but the mystery built into the new series doesn’t do much initially that would suggest a similarly lengthy run awaits it. Because based on the first few episodes, despite a lot of fire, the show doesn’t generate much heat.
“Teen Wolf: The Movie” and “Wolf Pack” both premiere January 26 on Paramount+.