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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Mel Valentin

"Everybody wants to rule the world."
5 stars

In the 1980s, tall hair was the norm, the clothes violated every rule of fashion sense, and popular music was abysmal (David Bowie, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder tarnished their legacies by altering their music and performing styles to match popular tastes). Hollywood churned out forgettable mediocrity after forgettable mediocrity (with the occasional exception, of course). Directed by Martha Coolidge ("Material Girls," "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," "Angie," "Rambling Rose," "Valley Girl") and written by Neal Israel, Pat Proft, and Peter Torokvei, "Real Genius" was, thankfully for moviegoers back in 1985, an exception to the barrage of mediocrities Hollywood was then and, sadly still is, churning out. As good as "Real Genius" was then, it’s even better now.

Midway through the academic year, Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), a Carl Sagan-like professor at Pacific Tech recruits Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret), a fifteen-year old genius, to attend Pacific Tech and join Hathaway’s top-secret, government-sponsored projects. Hathaway’s team receives college credit for their work and a well-paying, post-university position in their expertise. Hathaway gets the accolades and the big government contracts. Trouble is, the unnamed agency sponsoring Hathaway’s research into laser weaponry isn’t pleased with the slow progress Hathaway and his team of geniuses has made. To that end, he’s brought Mitch in to help spur his team into working more productively.

Mitch moves in with Chris Knight (Val Kilmer), Hathaway’s team leader and a living legend among science geeks. In response to the stress and grind, Knight has become a slacker and prankster. Knight makes it his to goal to save Mitch from becoming an adult too soon. Mitch keeps seeing a longhaired stranger (Jon Gries) slip in and out of the closet in his room. Mitch develops a crush on another Pacific Tech student, Jordan (Michelle Meyrink), a hyperactive insomniac who lives next door. Mitch also gains a nemesis, Kent Torokvei (Robert Prescott), a college senior with a man-crush on Hathaway (Kent openly covets the job Hathaway’s promised to Knight).

Hathaway’s secret project seems mundane by contemporary standards. It was fiction then, fact now. Still, the purpose behind the secret project is best left for viewers to discover on their own. Paying even casual attention to the prologue will tell you everything you need to know, though. As for everything else, Real Genius is as perfect a mainstream, subtext-laden comedy as you’ll find at your local video store or online. With switchbacks, likeable characters, hissable villains, a mix of clever and lowbrow humor (e.g., verbal and physical), reams of quotable dialogue and just enough subtext to elevate Real Genius from Animal House-inspired comedy to satire.

Real Genius is certainly a product of the 1980s. The heroes are of Caucasian. Minorities are strictly background fodder.. Ronald Reagan was just starting his second term in office after a stunning landslide victory over Walter Mondale. Progressive politics were in full retreat after the end of Vietnam, Watergate, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the loss of American hegemony both politically and economically. Real Genius also made science and science geeks attractive. Knight is brilliant, and looks like a young Val Kilmer. He’s also an outsider by choice, rebelling against careerism, corporatism, academia, and the military-industrial complex.

When it comes to choosing between other acknowledged “classics” made in the 1980s, e.g., the "Back to the Future" trilogy, John Hughes' decade-defining teen comedies, "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "Weird Science," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Some Kind of Wonderful"), "Better Off Dead," "WarGames" and "Real Genius," "Real Genius" has it all over them all any day of the week, month, or year (and that's no exaggeration). If you haven’t given "Real Genius" a chance, it’s time you did. You won’t regret it. And if that's not enough to pique your interest, what about the 80s synth pop that makes up the bulk of the soundtrack? That's right, if you act now, you'll get a chance to hear, The Call, Chaz Jankel, the Textones, Bryan Adams, Don Henley, and Tears for Fears, who provide the closing track, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

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originally posted: 03/26/07 12:54:53
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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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