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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.58%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 1.75%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 39 user ratings

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Real Genius
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by Paulapalooza

"Like FAME, except for smart people"
4 stars

Every kid who plays a sport in high school has his or her "pump up" movie, a slickly packaged flick where the kids win the day, the big game, the match, the meet. Football players have, say, VARSITY BLUES, while wrestlers swear by VISION QUEST. The cheerleaders got BRING IT ON. Hell, even the artsy kids are repped by CENTER STAGE.

So where the hell do the geeks turn? In the absence of a kick-ass potboiler about the Biology Bowl, REAL GENIUS is the obvious choice.

Nerds have long been enthralled by the mystic allure of the crème de la crème at elite tech schools like MIT. From disassembling and then reassembling complex machinery in faculty and administrative offices to rigging complex gags like a giant inflatable balloon at the 50-yardline of a football game, techies who can balance the stress of demanding intellectual exercise with inventive pranksterism are celebrated by their peers. Cue, I'm sure, writers Neal Israel, Pat Proft, and Peter Torokvei and director Martha Coolidge.

Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarrett) is a high school brain who gains early acceptance to the prestigious Pacific Tech under the auspices of the persnickety professor and science TV host Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton in a classic snooty bad guy role, as I think that's all he plays). Hathaway throws Mitch headfirst into his research project, a giant laser with power output problems. There he meets Chris Knight (Val Kilmer), the coolest guy on campus who coasts by, living by the edict to have a good time while he can and just waiting for a cushy job after he graduates. Mitch struggles to acclimate while Knight clashes with Hathaway and his toady Kent (Robert Prescott), unaware that the laser they're developing is meant to be used as A FRIGGIN' MILITARY DEATH BEAM FROM SPACE!!!!!!!!!

REAL GENIUS is a nicely-wrapped morality play about using your gifts creatively and constructively, especially in revenge scenarios when some poor son of a bitch crosses you and deserves a smackdown. Also, like most films of its ilk, it's a dual coming of age story (Mitch discovering who he is, Chris learning responsibility) that juggles its comedy and character surprisingly well. Most of the credit here has to go to Kilmer for translating the eccentric and flamboyant Chris into one of the most beloved comic icons of 80s teen cinema, and a supporting cast of sympathetic players. Jon Gries as Lazlo Hollyfeld, the smartest guy in the world who lives in Chris' and Mitch's closet, is a grin-inducing trip, and Michelle Meyrink as love interest Jordan Cochran makes me wonder why the hell she didn't get more work and why I didn't know girls like that in college. Uber-producer Dean Devlin is even in there somewhere, though this fun little film obviously didn't teach him much about producing an entertaining bit of cinema.

While the science in this movie probably wouldn't hold up to the scrutiny of one of those TV-advertised correpondence electronics courses, it's secondary. What's important is to see these characters cope with stress by blowing off steam and screwing with each other in the most inventive ways imaginable, in short, by showing that it's pretty damn cool to be smart. REAL GENIUS manages to avoid the sit-cominess of, say, POLICE ACADEMY with uncommonly weighty themes handled deftly (its argument for the morality of the sciences is nowhere near as hamfisted as JURASSIC PARK's), and a good bit of purely inspired wit. Most 80s comedies outside of Woody Allen MUST be judged on their quotability, and REAL GENIUS passes muster:

"Was it a dream where you were where you see yourself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid, with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you?"

"If you think that by threatening me you can get me to do what you want... Well, that's where you're right."

"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, when he said, 'I drank what?'"

By the end of this baby, rights have been wronged, lives have been changed for the better, and the bastards get their due, all thanks to the guile and grace of some fun-loving kids whose individual IQs beat out the collective scores of most of our families. And if Hollywood can help the smart kids feel good about themselves, then maybe that's a few more days one doesn't cook up a plague and drop it in the local water supply.

I don't know if it's truly "genius," but it's definitely in the "gifted" range.

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originally posted: 03/08/01 14:47:18
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User Comments

2/05/13 matthew thompson dalldorf Classic collage-satire 5 stars
11/24/09 Jeff Wilder One of the most intelligent comedies of the 80s, 5 stars
9/27/07 Slick This is one of the most brilliant and one of the best movies that has ever been made 5 stars
6/10/07 Josephine Jones One of the fun nies "nred pays you back movie". I've ever seen 5 stars
3/29/07 carlene great movie! 5 stars
8/28/05 D Buckley I wish movies were still like this. 4 stars
8/12/05 ALDO What geeks are really like. Probably the best synth score ever. 5 stars
2/08/05 Jeff Anderson The REAL GENIUS is in the acting, directing, & the writing. Definitely ONE FOR THE AGES!!!! 5 stars
12/25/03 jamie g a good laugh 5 stars
12/07/03 Mike This is a "lost gem" from the 1980's. It's too bad Val Kilmer doesn't do more comedies. 5 stars
9/12/03 John Goings Great film that physics geeks can quote from heart! 5 stars
6/24/03 sneaker The reason why I still read New Scientist to this day despite being a comic artist-Great!!! 5 stars
5/11/03 brenda bridges I fell in love with Crhis Knight the first time I saw this movie. It is great! 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Some of it's klunky; the majority is amazingly sharp-witted. Kilmer is sensational. 4 stars
1/14/03 Vitality1 A classic. Val Kilmer is hilarious - even if he can't hammer a spike w/his penis. 5 stars
11/05/02 Senator Blutarsky The movie that inspired me to become a physicist! 5 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Hilarious, "you're laborers...labor!" 5 stars
10/03/02 Jason "in the immortal words of socrates, 'I drank what?" -Chris Knight 5 stars
7/28/02 Coleen I love 80's movies and this was no exception but what ever happened to Gabe Jarrett 4 stars
7/25/02 Stan What ever happened to Michelle Meyrink? 5 stars
7/23/02 X-Lander Quintessential 80's teen comedy!! Michelle is HOT!! 5 stars
7/10/02 Tasha Took the 80s by its preppy little neck and gave a nice geeky squeeze!!! A+ 5 stars
12/28/01 Jimmy James one of my favorite movies! 5 stars
7/22/01 Dean Maynard Great Movie. Great Soundtrack! 5 stars
7/11/01 a One of the best films I've ever seen... DEI! and FEIF! 5 stars
5/31/01 Mr. Icy Hallway Slider It's a great movie if you ignore the popcorn ending! 5 stars
5/07/01 Pete Wrigley Watched it and PCU everyday my 3rd sophomore year. 5 stars
5/03/01 Katie Bear One of the greatest movies ever made - Val Kilmer & Gabriel Jarret are my heroes!! 5 stars
3/09/01 c a young Val Kilmer at his very best!!! 5 stars
12/02/00 Angela Murtagh My Favorite Movie of all Time...It is an awesome movie and Val Kilmer did a great job! 5 stars
11/30/00 Geoff One of the best comedies of the '80's, with a very timely Cold War message about science. 5 stars
11/25/00 TigerShark Intelligent plot based on reality, and damn funny too! One of my favorites 5 stars
10/30/00 Marilyn Joel's mom This film is one of the greatest nerd films of all time. Jordan is my role model. 5 stars
8/26/00 Jeff Lane The only movie next to Star Wars I have seen more than 15 times..the best 80's cult movie! 5 stars
7/27/00 Katie One of the BEST 80's movies out there. SEE IT, SEE IT, SEE IT! 5 stars
7/05/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Good" 4 stars
3/31/99 big joe Deserves more praise for it's look at issues facing students 4 stars
10/30/98 Silent Rob An 80's classic comedy of subversive defiance. The Animal House for Tech School students! 4 stars
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  02-Feb-1986 (PG-13)


  02-Jul-1986 (PG)

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