Mitch is one of the youngest students ever accepted to a university known for its programs for geniuses. He's partnered up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight, on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyper-kinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius is. When their final, functional laser is stolen by their teacher for a military weapon, they decide to get even.
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
. Starring: Val Kilmer
, Gabriel Jarret
, Michelle Meyrink
, William Atherton
, Jon Gries
, Patti D'Arbanville
, Stacy Peralta
, Daniel Ades
, Andres Aybar
, Louis Giambalvo
, Ed Lauter
, Charles Shull
, Beau Billingslea
. Music by: Thomas Newman
I love Real Genius, having seen this obscure (but probably recently revived) 80s teen comedy on cable once. However, I've shown it to several friends that have either found it too unusual to be funny (the story itself is not your typical teen event, although it was good original material coming out the 80s) or they were surprisingly confused by it (why, I don't know).
Real Genius is something of an 80s science fiction movie. Boy genius, Mitch (Gabe Jarrett) is new to specialized school with a science and math curriculum for the unmatched teen brain (these teenagers are high school-aged, studying advanced theories of quantum physics and such). Mitch is the level-headed new kid, slightly naive and far too uptight. He has the honor of being the school's youngest admitted freshman (at 15), aside from Chris Knight (Val Kilmer), his slacker roommate who learned long ago that you can't go through life with your nose in the books all the time. As the exact opposite of Mitch, he tries to get the poor guy to loosen up and have some fun. "When you're smart, people can use you," says Chris. Needless to say, Chris and his friends have put their smarts to good use (his buddy, Ick, develops an ice that they cover the hallway with for indoor ice skating). Chris, being the laid back fellow, is the funniest character in the movie.
And the bain of dean Hatthaway, the uptight teacher who doesn't want Chris influencing Mitch because Mitch is being put to work on Hatthaway's special project, the development of a pretty intense laser (for the purposes of which are central to the plot), which people funding Hatthaway (the military) keep breathing down his neck to complete. As such, Hatthaway doesn't want any distractions, and even threatens to fail Chris for interfering with any potential progress on the project. Mitch and Chris get in a fair shake of trouble, thanks to their obnoxious trio of rival classmates, lead by king loser Kent (Robert Prescott) who will stop at nothing to be Hatthaway's pet, including stealing away Chris's promised job following education.
Chris and Mitch and the rest of their friends (hyperkinetic Jordan, Mitch's girlfriend played by Michelle Merynick; Ick; and the boiler room recluse, Laslo Holyfeld played by John Gries), have their fun getting revenge with both Hatthaway and Kent's loser gang. In the meantime, however, they've got bigger problems with the laser. What would anyone want with a laser so powerful that it can blow a hole through walls and trees and signs on into the next town? You have to watch to find out.
The movie, for me, is a load of laughs and the characters are charming. Aside from the star of the movie, Val Kilmer, I particularly like Merynick as the hyperkinetic blabbermouth, Jordan. The soundtrack, too, is good, with several good montage sequences.
If you enjoy this movie, I recommend watching other Martha Coolige titles. This is comedy typical of her style and one of a few 80s teen movies that she directed. Michelle Merynick ("Jordan") worked with her in earlier films: Valley Girl in 1983 and The Joy of Sex (a decent National Lampoon stupid humor comedy with Cameron Dye)in 1984. Or, you might try the mildly funny undercover high school caper, Plain Clothes. This one, aside from Valley Girl, may be her best in teen selections (she did direct other things, most notably the Neil Simon comedy Lost in Yonkers). If you love 80s movies, this one should appeal to you. And if you've seen Valley Girl and liked it, definitely try this one out.
Review by Pepper Anne from the Internet Movie Database.