News Article

Reality Bites

A werewolf expert compares Jack Nicholson's character and the real thing

Does a movie about a werewolf falling in love seem far-fetched? It does to Stephen Kaplan, Ph.D., who says a real werewolf could never carry on an affair. Kaplan should know: He's founder of the Werewolf Research Center in Elmhurst, N.Y., an organization of people who study — that is to say, believe in — werewolves. Here's how Wolf bears up to his scrutiny, as told to Lois Alter Mark:

The most accurate depiction in the film is not Jack Nicholson's hair-raising metamorphosis — it's the backbiting that goes on in the publishing industry. There are between 200 and 300 werewolves in this country. Most of them realized their plight as teenagers. During each of the year's 13 full moons, they undergo a five-day transformation into something extremely dangerous-and yes, they do grow more hair. Unlike Nicholson, though, they don't feel great. They feel terrible, cursed. They definitely don't get to go to bed with Michelle Pfeiffer.

The movie does get some of the physical changes right, but it exaggerates them tremendously. Yes, a werewolf's senses are enhanced, but will a person who wears glasses suddenly have 20/20 vision? Come on. And he or she will not be able to leap over walls. Nicholson is ridiculously like the Bionic Man in this movie.

In Wolf, anyone who gets bitten by a werewolf turns into one. In real life, they'd most likely turn into a corpse. And although it's very romantic that Nicholson tries to control himself around Pfeiffer, werewolves simply can't turn off their violent instincts at whim.

Wolf is truest to its subject when it finally lets us feel Nicholson's sadness and his fear of hurting the one he loves. Ultimately, though, with its nonsensical, schmaltzy ending, Wolf is little more than a Beauty and the Beast with bite.

Originally posted Jun 24, 1994 Published in issue #228-229 Jun 24, 1994 Order article reprints