Filed under “H” for Toy… (Real Genius)

June 4, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Posted in movies | 1 Comment

Mitch: You know, um, something strange happened to me this morning…
Chris Knight: Was it a dream 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?
Mitch: No…
Chris Knight: Why am I the only one who has that dream?

Real Genius
VHS – June 2, 2008

By happenstance, this film kept popping up everywhere. Once as part of a double feature midnight movie at Cinema Arts Centre, then later mentioned as one of the top movies of all time, according to a friend. I had never seen or even heard of this movie before, but apparently it has a cult like following, similar to that of Better Off Dead. Taking the repetitive occurrences as a sign for my next review, I bring you the 1985 revenge comedy, Real Genius.

We begin with a film outlining plans to construct a laser death-ray that can pinpoint a human target with precise accuracy from space. The US Air Force commissions Pacific Tech College professor Jerry Hathaway to design the laser for said weapon. Clearly misusing the project’s funding toward garish home improvements, Hathaway delegates the responsibility of creating the laser to a team of unwitting Pacific Tech students, the head of which is the renowned Christopher Knight, a genius prodigy with a serious case of carpe diem senioritis.

Hathaway recruits another prodigy from a high school science fair, Mitch Taylor, who joins the gang at Pacific Tech. Mitch arrives to find that he and the eccentric Chris Knight (played by a young Val Kilmer) are in fact roommates. This pleases Knight so much that he takes Mitch under his wing through a series of hi jinx. Aided by classmates “Ick”, girl genius Jordan and the cocky adversary Kent, many pranks transpire in classic 80’s comedy fashion, giving a simultaneously dated yet universal feel. Pacific Tech is loosely modeled after California Institute of Technology (CalTech), where the students relieve the pressure from genius-level coursework by partying just as hard. For a detailed outline on the references, click here.

Jon Gries, mostly recently known as Uncle Rico in Napolean Dynamite, pops in and out of the story in the supporting role of ex-genius, Lazlo Hollyfeld. When Hollyfeld sends in a large number of entries to the Frito-Lay contest, he is mirroring the actions of CalTech students Steve Klein, Dave Novikoff and Barry Megdal, who, in 1974, used a similar strategy to win a McDonald’s sweepstakes. Their entries came to roughly 1/5th of the total entries and won them a station wagon, $3,000 and $1,500 in food gift certificates. (IMDB)

Digital Doodles: “In the story, the students don’t realize the laser system they’re developing is destined for use by the Air Force in an aerial laser gunship. Although the movie was totally fictional, it did capture a certain reality of what a real laser of the day looked like, which is distinctly not like you’ve seen in any sci-fi movie. What I find cool is the movies writers and director took a bit to time to make it real instead of pulling it out of their ass!”

After successfully creating the laser, the team figures out they’ve been tricked and concoct a genius-level revenge. By breaking into the Air Force base, Chris and Mitch are able to revise the coordinates for the first test of the laser beam. Hilarity ensues!

Quite enjoyed this movie. It may be my recent penchant for geeky but fun geniuses (aka Big Bang Theory, where incidentally the main characters also attend CalTech). Directed by Martha Coolidge and produced by Brian Graser, the movie was quick-witted and fun to watch. I particularly enjoyed Val Kilmer’s character with wardrobe sight gags and light quips such as “Hey, Laslo. Want to see a demonstration of gravity?” then proceeds to knock a pile of books from passing students hands. For those interested, recreates many items in Chris Knight’s wardrobe including T-shirts and bunny slippers.

RATING: ****/5
Recommendation: Funny 80’s movie, if you are in such a mood. 🙂


1 Comment »

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  1. LOVE the movie! Great page. Lots of interesting info, thanks!


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