It is unclear who said the famous phrase, “From the sublime to the absurd there is but one step,” exactly. In all actuality, writer/director John Hughes, who throughout his career demonstrated a mastery of that very notion, might as well have invented it.
Hughes had a special talent for slipping absurd elements into his movies, blending the strange into the everyday with such ease that the absurdity only becomes apparent after the fact. His silliest movie, “Weird Science,” from 1985, flirts with disbelief from the start. Two nerdy social outcast teenagers, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), decide on the spur of the moment to create a computer simulation of a girl. Through various shenanigans, the simulation transforms into a real-life magic genie named Lisa (Kelly LeBrock).
Hughes seizes the chance to produce a variety of progressively outlandish setpieces and moments as Lisa guides her creators through the dangers of adolescent manhood while pretending to be having fun with them. Star LeBrock’s favourite sequence in the film also happens to be one of the most absurd and amusing ones.
Lisa has a ‘Sudden Impact’ on Gary’s parents
Of response to a question about her favourite “Weird Science” scene in 2019, LeBrock gave the following response:
“Definitely the parents, when I pull a gun on the parents. It’s just so naughty and outrageous and ridiculous but it seemed to work for that moment.”
LeBrock’s analysis of the situation is highly insightful since it exemplifies how brilliantly Hughes’ heightened nonsense works when compared to the commonplace.
While Gary is desperately trying to prevent Lisa from getting him into serious trouble, Lisa is pleading with Gary’s stern parents Al (Britt Leach) and Lucy (Barbara Lang) to let him attend a wild party.
The struggle between Lisa and Gary, as well as the friction between them, is an illustration of what comedy professionals refer to as “finding the game.” The “game” is the scene’s main source of humour. Hughes “heightens” the scenario when Lisa’s family threatens to contact the police and secrets about Gary’s bathroom habits come to light. At this point, the scene requires a conclusion, often known as a “button”; after all, Gary needs to get to the party.
As a result, Lisa (perhaps using her magic abilities) produces a gun out of thin air and points it at Al. Leach responds to this excellently with a meek fright in his voice. The absurd cherry on top is when “Sudden Impact,” the sequel to 1983’s Dirty Harry, is specifically quoted in the movie with the added twist that Al completes Lisa’s famous phrase, signifying his defeat.
‘Weird Science’ lives up to its title
A short while later, Hughes gives Gary a button to push while Lisa tells him that the gun she pulled on his father just squirted water. Gary is still shaken. Then, at a later point, Gary uses the gun to drive away some mutant party crashers and assumes it is still a phoney weapon, which turns out not to be the case. Hughes demonstrates his skill with organisation and humour in just these intertwined jokes.
Hughes tended to employ his surrealistic, Looney Tunes-like embellishments sparingly in most of his movies, usually only during intense emotional or incidental moments. Consider Del Griffith (John Candy) turning into the Devil in “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” or Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) taking a crazy ride on a greased-up sled in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
The eerie, hilarious fate of Gary’s parents
On the other hand, “Weird Science” is jam-packed with them. “Weird Science,” which takes its name from the 1950s EC Comics publication of the same name (a connection that producer Joel Silver later used to produce a loose adaptation of another EC Comics title, “Tales From the Crypt”), is filled with all kinds of science fiction and fantasy-based jokes, from giant nuclear missiles showing up in Wyatt’s bedroom to the geeky heroes having to battle the bad guys from “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Mad Max 2
Hughes, who is never one to pass up a good running joke, saves one of the strangest (and rather unsettling) jokes for the events that follow Lisa’s encounter with Gary’s parents. It is revealed that Lisa played mental games with Al and Lucy in order to minimise the effects of their encounter: Lucy only recalls Gary acting strangely earlier that evening, whilst Al has no memory of Gary at all. As a result, a humorous game ensues in which Lucy attempts valiantly to remind Al that he has a kid, a reminder that Al rejects with growing perplexity and resentment. The joke is a subversive parody of a teenager who wishes their parents would just leave them alone and has a dark sci-fi/fantasy undercurrent (for example, the premise is very similar to the “The Twilight Zone” episode “And When the Sky Was Opened”) that the movie isn’t interested in delving into in detail.