"Teen Wolf," a shameless rip-off of an old movie, roots around in the popularity of a new one. A retread of the '50s classic "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," it stars Michael J. Fox of "Back to the Future" fame. Actually it was made before "Future" and held for release. It never should have been let out of its cage.

Where the other two movies were zany and inventive, this one is determinedly bland and unoriginal. It concerns the metamorphosis of a short, mild teen-ager named Scott (Fox) into the hot dog (wolf) of the high school basketball team ("Beavers") and the hero of his peers. All wolfed up, Scott rather resembles a giant chipmunk. For love, he must choose between a vapid blond vixen and a nice brown mouse -- over which there is so much hare-brained moralizing that you'll want to howl at the screen.

"If you ever need somebody to talk to, if something's bothering you, I'll understand," the mouse (her name is "Boof") tells Scott, as a string section swells significantly in the background. In this movie, the characters are forever saying things like that to each other as strings swell significantly in the background.

Fox's performance is a shadow of his "Future" self, and the rest of the cast -- everyone from teeny-boppers to wise guys to baffled adults -- are equally benumbed. You really can't blame them, what with a screenplay by Joseph Loeb III and Matthew Weisman that relies on "losing control of his bodily functions" for its biggest laugh. Director Rod Daniel, a veteran of sitcoms debuting here in Feature Film, displays the heart of a poodle and a made-for-TV soul. Teen Wolf, now playing at the Circle West End 5, is rated PG and contains sexual situations.