What’s Mr. Einstein really like?… Dead!!! But nerds making Popcorn with super lasers is all part of being a Real Genius…
No, I didn’t recently become a supercilious member of Mensa… I’m talking about one of my favorite 80’s geek/slacker comedies directed by Martha Coolidge and written by Neil Israel,
Pat Proft & Pj Torokvei who collectively are responsible for classics such as Back To School, the Police Academy movies & Caddyshack 2 (I actually briefly met Jackie Mason in Manhattan one time while working at my boy’s cafe years ago.. dude was rolling with an entourage of geriatric “yes men” holidin’ him down).
The movie ‘Real Genius’ was released in August of 1985, right in the middle of the 1980’s nerd craze. You had Nerd candy, calculator watches & George Mcfly cowlicks. Let’s face it, despite how popular nerds were, nobody wanted to be one. It’s sorta like porn… everybody watches it but doesn’t want their daughter in them.
You had movies like Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Can’t Buy Me Love & Lucas where geeks are tormented and use their brilliant wits to prank their way into redemption while winning over the heart of the “out of their league” object of affection but this film is probably one of the first films of this genre that had actually exhibited nerd on nerd crime.
Up until then you had alpha bullies… You know, dudes with spiked hair & fingerless gloves that worked their way up to green belt just so they could test out their new moves on some defenseless dweeb near the bike rack at school. Since the dawn of the Napster era, the tables have turned and now nerds are the new bullies from trolling, hacking & catfishing they seem to run shit. I dare some meat-headed jock to pop-off in a World of Warcraft thread just to end up being the laughingstock of some viral meme before they can even pronounce the word “meme”. Plus they got the bitches on lock from Cosplay, gaming, to Game of Thrones & Chill… Shit, you can’t even walk into an indie cafe these days and expect to get laid without rockin’ a pair of thick framed, Lewis Skolnick glasses and a ironic shirt wearing dad-bod.This movie starts off with CIA agents in a private meeting discussing the development of a hi-tech chemical laser known as Project Crossbow with them appointing a Professor Hathaway to build it for them by their upcoming deadline. Hathaway (played by William Atherton who was also the jerk-off reporter in Die Hard & the asshole that shut down the Ecto-Containment unit in Ghostbusters) is a narcissistic proffessor at Pacific Tech (which is heavily based of Caltech, a private doctrate-granting institute in Pasadena, California) recruits Mitch Taylor, a shy, nervous 15 year old genius and new student at Pacific Tech to work on the 5 Megawatt laser project along side legendary mastermind Chris Knight (played by Val Kilmer) who I can strongly identify with. I see a lot of myself in this character from his sarcastic one-liners, shameless disregard for rules & authority down to his straight forward, borderline offensive but charming way with the ladies.
The two of them are also roommates in the dorms and it is pretty much your Odd Couple/Felix & Oscar type of scenario. Around the same time Mitch notices a strange, disheveled man disappearing into the walls of his closet but through the mist of confusion in adapting to this new environment, disregards it for the time being. Meanwhile, professor Hathaway is feeling the pressure from his business partners who seem to also have some blackmail as some additional leverage to ensure that Project Crossbow is completed by their deadline. Mitch gets to working on the laser and soon introduced to the obnoxious & patronizing Kent, the bully-nerd who can be best described as if Bill Gates had a Wario minus the success factor with his group of science lab pee-ons who envy Mitch’s higher rank and IQ.
Later on we meet the hyperkinetic Jordan (played by Michelle Meyrink who also played a similar character in “Revenge of the Nerds”) who is like Velma from Scooby on too much Adderall. According to online sources, Jordan’s character was inspired by Gadget from Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers. Mitch & Jordan meet and suddenly share an awkward chemistry which has a future of lustful, apologetic, pre-ejaculating, missionary sex written all over it!
We then get a day to day montage of Mitch (with music by Sheffield England’s very own, The Comsat Angels) switching classes, walking on campus and also spotting the mystery man that seems to be living in his closet. Mitch follows the man into his closet (no homo), discovering a secret passage into a steam room where he spies on him doing some kind of elaborate computer work. Chris Knight meets with Professor Hathaway who aside from expressing his disgust for popcorn, pretty much threatens to flunk him if he does not start showing some more progress on the laser. Chris being the rebellious intellectual that he is, makes an attempt to help Mitch loosen up, laser guiding him and some of the other fellow students to an indoor pool party full of retro babe beauticians while Kent maliciously tips off Hathaway of their whereabouts fueling the ongoing prank war between them throughout the course of the movie.
After getting berated Joe Jackson style by Hathaway, they are forced to complete the project or risk failing school which now transitions us into another hardcore study montage that actually made studying look fun to a high school reject/ G.E.D. scholar such as myself.
Somewhere along the way, they address the elephant in the room, the closet guy, Lazlo Hollyfeld (played by John Gries of Fright Night 2 & Terrorvision) who was a big time prodigy at Pacific Tech back in the 70’s that eventually cracked from stress. I love this character also because I actually know people like this guy. He’s like the guy who is a regular at the local pub but isn’t really there to get shitfaced, he’s there to socialize, everybody there knows who he is but nobody really knows where he lives or actually hung out with him outside of the bar. He knows a little bit about everything and
has been working on a book or a script of some sort forever ha! Well anyway, Lazlo is helping them ace their final exam while also later on raising the question of Hathaway’s true intentions & use for the high powered laser which leads them to believe that it will be used as a killing machine.
They soon head back to the lab where they discover that the laser has been removed by the CIA and now make it their responsibility to come together and orchestrate a way to sabotage the launching of this suspicious project by using fake mustaches, mirrors and some heavy duty popcorn demolition to stop them which according to a 2009 episode of Myth Busters is semi possible. Overall this is a fun movie to watch if you’re into this brand of sci-fi 80’s comedies even though it seems a bit dated like most 80’s movies if you consider the absurdity of assassinating someone from a remote controlled device in mid-air like a drone… ummm… wait a minute.. ummmm, nevermind!
Yeah… yeah so anyways….
There’s been talks about turning Real Genius into a tv show but I haven’t heard much about it but with nerds on the rise and the popularity of Big Bang Theory, that might not be such a bad idea… I mean let’s just make a tv show about everything.. Fuck it, let’s make a tv show about making everything a tv show.. that’s genius… Real Genius!!!
Words by Wayne Wilkins AKA Critical – Florida. USA