|REAL GENIUS (1985)|
|"You see Mitch, I used to be you. Lately I've been missing me so I asked Dr. Hathaway if I could room with me again and he said sure."|
|Time: 108 mins.|
Genre: College Comedy
I have to admit that REAL GENIUS is one of my all-time favorite comedies from the 80s. I can't even remember the first time I saw it, but I watch it whenever it comes on cable. Since the film is about exceptionally smart college students, it's a little more intelligent than your typical teen romp. It actually has a plot which is highly unbelievable but at least there's something more going on than the chase to see which of the main characters is going to get laid first. This is irreverent comedy at its best and nobody does it better than Val Kilmer. I suspect that this was supposed to be his big break. Though not generally known now as a comic actor, he actually has great timing and is quite funny. Of course, it's not hard to be amusing when you have talent and a well-written script at your disposal. He oozes sex appeal and sarcasm in equal measures, yet still has you believing he's a brilliant young student.
The basic plot of the film has Kilmer playing Chris Knight, a once stellar student now goofing off as his college career draws to a close. His advisor, Professor Jerry Hathaway, a pompous ass, tired of Chris's attitude brings a new "stud" to campus to finish the project Chris can't be bothered to complete. Mitch (Jarret) is even younger than Chris was when he started college and as a 15-year-old, is unprepared for the crazy college world. Chris doesn't really help, trying to get Mitch to unwind and enjoy his college years. Mitch can't understand what happened to Chris. He used to be Mitch's idol, but Mitch is disappointed at the slacker his roommate has become. Chris just wants to party and meet women, something he was studying too much his first three years to get around to.
Mitch doesn't really care what Chris does as long as he pulls his weight on the project. They are supposed to create a super-powerful, portable laser that can be projected over thousands of miles. Hathaway has a deadline and they will meet it or be faced with dire consequences. Chris, threatened with expulsion, finally comes around and they begin working in earnest. Unfortunately, what they don't know, is that Hathaway already has a purpose worked out for their project and the people behind it aren't planning on using the invention for honorable purposes. They also have to deal with the weaselly Kent, the ultimate student suck-up. Unfortunately for Kent, he isn't half as smart as the two of them and they make him pay for his maliciousness. They also make sure, with the help of a motley crew of geniuses, that Hathaway's plans for their work are foiled in the extreme.
One of the great things about this movie is that the characters are not only unique, but that they have interesting things to say. The dialogue, on top of being very witty, is very honest and true. Gabriel Jarret is the perfect counterpart to Kilmer as the fresh-faced, trusting Mitch, who just wants to fit in and do well. They make a great pair. William Atherton has made a career of being an onscreen asshole and he doesn't disappoint here. Nobody does it better. The film is definitely a little slow in parts, but overall it's a most enjoyable romp through the halls of academia. REAL GENIUS is not your run-of-the-mill college comedy and I for one am glad. If you're looking for something a little different, give this film a try.