Movie Review: Real Genius (1985)

Title: Real Genius
Release Date: August 7, 1985
Director: Martha Coolidge
Production Company: Delphi III Productions

I probably can’t give an objective review to this movie since it has been on of my all-time favorites since I saw in 1985 at a movie theater in the town hall of Edgartown, Massachusetts.  This is a college comedy set at the fictional Pacific Tech (a thinly-veiled CalTech), which is set apart from the raunchy sex comedies of the era by focusing on characters who are really smart.

Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret) is a 15-year-old prodigy in laser technology admitted mid-year to Pacific Tech.  He’s paired with senior genius Chris Knight (Chris Knight) who has taken up a carefree life of partying and pranking rivals like the smug Kent (Robert Prescot), in order to avoid cracking due to academic pressure. The first 2/3s of the movie focus on various highjinx at Pacific Tech as Mitch settles into the college.  Mitch also finds a love interest in the hyperkinetic genius Jordan (Michelle Meyrink).

The arrogant professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton in an even more iconic villain role than in Ghostbusters)  drives Mitch and Chris to create a powerful laser. When they succeed, a traumatized genius who has been living in the steam tunnels of Pacific Tach since the 1970s named Lazlo Hollyfeld (Jon Gries) alerts them the laser can only be used as a weapon.  Hathaway has indeed stolen their research for a secret CIA weapons project. And so Mitch, Chris, and friends have their revenge on Hathaway, the military, and Kent for good measure in an elaborate plot involving lots of popcorn.

This move remains hilarious after 35 years, with many iconic scenes and quotable dialogue.  I always appreciated Val Kilmer’s performance and wondered why he seemed to abandon comedy for mostly action-adventure roles for the rest of his career. The soundtrack is also an excellent collection of mid-80s pop and New Wave, with the final scenes perfectly scored to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.  If you haven’t watched this movie or haven’t watch it in a while, it’s worth checking out!

Rating: ****1/2

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