Unless you’re a diehard member of the wolfpack, Teen Wolf: The Movie—which will begin streaming exclusively on Paramount+ on Friday—is not worth your time.
Believe me, it brings me no joy to report this. Like many teenage girls in the year 2011, I was a fan of the MTV series Teen Wolf. Did I care about the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie it was loosely based on? Not in the slightest. Did I think it was great television? Absolutely not. But was I won over by the effortless, dorky charm of Dylan O’Brien as “Stiles” Stilinski, and sucked down a rabbit hole of werewolf fanfiction? Absolutely yes.
The fact that O’Brien does not appear in the 2023 movie—like, at all, don’t hold your breath for a cameo or even a flashback—is just one reason Teen Wolf: The Movie disappoints. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, who was a key director on the series, and written by series creator Jeff Davis, the movie picks up 13 years after we last saw Scott McCall, despite the fact that it’s only been six years since the show went off the air. The jump ahead in time is no doubt because audiences tend to be more willing to suspend their disbelief with 30-year-olds playing 18, but less so with 37-year-olds playing 25. (Hollywood is weird that way!) Scott (played by Tyler Posey) is the alpha werewolf of his pack, and apparently now has a job as an emergency responder, but specifically for emergency situations where children are cornered in a pit by feral dogs.
Teen Wolf: The Movie doesn’t bother with much of a series refresher before jumping into its own convoluted plot, so good luck to all the viewers who bailed after (spoiler alert!) Allison was killed off in Season 3. Most of the movie is spent ret-conning that controversial decision, and it’s great to see Crystal Reed reprise her role complete with her trademark bow-and-arrow. But by the end of the film, you won’t feel like Davis learned any lessons from the blowback he faced for killing off fan favorites.
While Scott, Lydia (played by a still-delightful Holland Roden), and Jackson (Colton Haynes, a welcome return, and arguably the best actor in O’Brien’s absence) deal with the Allison stuff, former alpha werewolf Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin, looking exactly the same as he did in 2011) is struggling as a single father of his own teen wolf. His son, Eli, is a 15-year-old troublemaker. He frequently steals Stiles’ old Jeep—a fun nod to the show’s beloved vehicle—because he wants to piss off his dad. Though actor Vince Mattis is a charming addition to the cast, the movie simply never explains this bombshell revelation that, uh, Derek Hale is a freakin’ dad now. Of a 15-year-old. Absolutely no mother is mentioned. It’s never explained or questioned. It’s madness. I felt like I was losing my mind while watching.
Then there’s the fact that the movie is an excruciating 2-hours and 19 minutes of messy, boring plot, with zero parts fun. MTV’sTeen Wolf was hardly prestige TV, but it was always fun. (The fact that grumpy Gen-X men disliked it for not being the ’80s Teen Wolf was just a bonus.) It took itself too seriously, yes, but in an endearing, soap opera sort of way. All of that charm is gone in the movie. The plot meanders, the exposition-heavy dialogue feels lazy, and no one has any freakin’ chemistry. Teen Wolf was never as smart as its influence, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; but what it lacked in quippy one-liners it made up for with a cast that sizzled with chemistry.
The appeal of Teen Wolf, from the beginning, was said cast. O’Brien—who played the best friend of lead teen werewolf Scott McCall—was best friends with star Tyler Posey in real life, and the fans ate it up. Whether it was true or just for PR, everyone on the show seemed at least a little bit into one another, and it bled into their performances. It’s the reason there are over 130,000 fan fiction works about Teen Wolf published on Archive of Our Own, and it’s the reason most viewers were tuning in weekly, despite the increasingly confusing and depressing plot. Whether because of O’Brien’s absence, the years spent apart, the rushed production, or something else, that chemistry was nowhere to be found in Teen Wolf: The Movie.
All that’s left is a gloomy, overstuffed film that rips off one too many horror tropes, starring actors that we used to know. If you love Teen Wolf to the point that you’d do anything to spend a few more hours in Beacon Hills, go ahead and give it a stream. But if you’re a casual fan who was in it for Stiles and supernatural teenage fun, don’t bother. Stick with the fanfiction.