tek's rating: ½

Real Genius (PG)
A.V. Club; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Sony Pictures; TV Tropes; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers.

A movie from 1985 which more or less follows the formula of any number of comedy movies I've never seen about misfits at college who... I don't know. I haven't seen those movies. But I'm vaguely aware of them. Anyway, this is more a spoof of such movies, and I'm sure I liked it better than I'd like them. Probably. Anyway... I suppose I first saw it on TV, but I must have had a VHS tape of it at some point. Maybe. I do remember thinking it's a movie that's better without all the editing that's done for TV. But now I have it on DVD.

So... it starts out with a demonstration of a new laser weapon to be used by a space shuttle, which can fire on a target on Earth. But the weapon hasn't actually been built yet... and apparently it's a project the CIA is trying to keep secret, which I guess is something the CIA is good at. Keeping secrets. Even from the President. But um, there's one guy in the meeting who basically is supposed to pressure a professor named Jerry Hathaway to complete the weapon. When we first see Professor Hathaway, he's attending a high school science fair to inform a student named Mitch Taylor that he's been accepted for early admission to Pacific Tech (where all the students are geniuses). There, Mitch will be working on a team that includes a senior named Chris Knight (played by Val Kilmer, probably the first role I ever saw him in, which made me a fan for life). Chris is apparently a legend in certain academic circles. Also on the team is a guy named Kent, who constantly sucks up to Hathaway (though Hathaway doesn't treat him very well), and is basically the academic version of bully. He doesn't like Chris, and now he doesn't like Mitch. (There are a couple other guys on the team, but they're not really important.)

Anyway, Mitch will not only be working on Chris's team, which is developing the laser Hathaway is supposed to be building; he's also Chris's new roommate. And he's disillusioned to find that Chris is a total goof. (Which is of course what I love about him.) He doesn't seem to take anything seriously, and is all about having fun. And he's really funny (maybe not quite as hilarious as I thought when I saw the movie as a kid, but close). Also, there's a guy named Lazlo Hollyfeld living in their closet, though when Mitch follows him, he seems to have disappeared. But eventually they'll meet. He was the top brain at school like ten years earlier, but he cracked. And now he has a plan to win a bunch of prizes in a sweepstakes. (He's played by Jon Gries, whose work I'd later enjoy in other stuff, most notably The Pretender.) And Mitch also befriends a student named Jordan, a girl who is hyper-talkative and odd (but I had quite the crush on her).

Eventually, Hathaway gives Chris a deadline for solving the problems with the laser, with the threat that if he fails, he will also fail the professor's class. Which means he won't graduate. Kinda seems for a moment like that means he'll start to get serious, but instead he just makes Mitch start to loosen up. Which upsets Hathaway, and ends up making life harder for Mitch. And it leads to Kent playing a prank on Mitch... which leads to Mitch and Chris playing a prank on Kent. Which leads to Hathaway promising (no longer just a threat) to flunk Chris and give the job he'd promised him to Kent. Which leads to Chris finally getting serious about working on the laser with Mitch. Which leads to Kent sabotaging the project. Which leads to Chris having a sudden insight that solves the problem of the power source for the laser. Which leads to him passing Hathaway's course and being re-promised the job.

And then, when Chris, Mitch, Jordan, and their friend Ick (another student) are out celebrating... Lazlo shows up and tells them it has occurred to him that the purpose for the laser could be to kill people. From space. Using a tracking system (which Kent had designed). It does seem a bit odd to me that it never occurred to any of them that a laser might have this application; it's like they've never watched any science fiction shows or movies in their life. Which is impossible. But whatever. So, they trick Kent into revealing a date for a trial run of the laser. As for a place... Ick follows Hathaway, one day. And later, Chris, Mitch, Jordan, Lazlo, and Ick enact a zany scheme to discredit Hathaway and the laser; the nature of the scheme I won't reveal. Except to say that hopefully, it would only work in a movie.

What else am I forgetting about the movie? Oh, there are a couple of women who I suddenly realize I originally thought were one woman. One is Sherry Nugil, who we first saw in the scene that introduced Chris, when he was meeting people... at the job he'd been promised by Professor Hathaway, I guess. She later tries to seduce Mitch, and fails (because he was into Jordan). Side note, while I'm sure Sherry was way too old for him (not that she's that old, probably in her 30s), technically Jordan's also too old for him, since she's 19 and he's 15. But meh, they're both college students, so whatever. Besides which, her personality makes her seem closer to Mitch's age. Um... and the other woman is Susan... who's probably in her early 20s. She's the daughter of the guy who's pressuring the guy who's pressuring Hathaway. And Chris hit on her, at one point. (Though I guess he'd also sort of hit on Sherry, earlier.) Um... or rather than saying I thought they were the same person, it might be more accurate to say I completely forgot about Sherry's scenes. Except for the last one, in which I definitely thought she was Susan. Seeing as I didn't remember Sherry's earlier scenes at all. Anyway... I don't want to reveal anything about the end of the movie. But it was fun.

So, um... I guess I don't love the movie quite as much I as I remembered, but it was still pretty awesome. (If I rated it before watching it to write this review, I probably would have given it three or four hearts. After watching it, I think two would be fair, but I'm giving it an extra half for the sake of nostalgia.) It had good music, and it was quite funny, and cool (in a geeky sorta way), and I liked all the characters (even the ones I hated). Chris was awesome, Mitch was decent, Lazlo and Jordan were both pretty cool. (And did I mention my major crush on Jordan?) Hathaway (who btw, was played by William Atherton, who I'm sure I've seen in other stuff) was amusing. Kent was a good character, even if he wasn't a good guy... but not that bad a guy, either. I guess. And Ick was a fun character, whose existence I'd somehow completely forgotten. Oh yeah, and in case I hadn't mentioned it... I had a crush on Jordan (a crush which will resurface any time I watch this movie, or even think about it). I guess I can't think what else to say, except that if you're eating popcorn while watching the movie... try to save some for the end. You'll definitely want some.


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