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REAL GENIUS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton
Director: Martha Coolidge
Audio: English Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Bonus Trailers
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: June 4, 2002

“I want to see more of you around the lab.”

“Fine, I’ll gain weight.”

Film ***1/2

Could it ever be possible to create a teenage comedy where the young characters are big on the brains and not on the sex hormones, and still be an uproarious laugh fest? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good sex comedy as much as the next guy, but as lover of cinema, I find it absolutely refreshing about the concept as the one for Real Genius, which has long been one of my favorite comedies of the 80s. I still consider it one of those rare movies that was able to execute the unthinkable; creating a comedy aimed at teens about college students that are very smart, even smarter than the adults in the story. And the most surprising turnout is that the movie is hugely funny, boasting some many hysterical moments that have stuck in my mind since I first saw the movie in 1985.

The movie opens with a boardroom of shady government officials proposing the development of a top-secret weapon designed for space orbit. The development of the weapon is handed down from them to Dr. Hathaway (William Atherton), a renowned physics professor who is putting together his most elite team of students to begin construction of the weapon, which involves the use of laser beams, though the students don’t exactly know what they’re building, or why they must spend every waking hour in the lab.

One of the students is Mitch (Gabe Jarret), a science prodigy, since he is one of the youngest students to ever be accepted to Dr. Hathaway’s school. Mitch is saddled as a roommate with the brilliant Chris Knight, played by Val Kilmer in one of his first and most memorable performances. There is actually a third roommate, though he actually lives in the closet (it’ll make since when you watch it). Knight is actually a legend in the physics world, considered the most brilliant freshman in college history. Now a senior, Knight is still the brilliant mind, but he is also a wild party animal who only parties to help ease the stress built on his fellow students. He tells Mitch he was just like him in his first year, and he intends to have Mitch evolve in the same way as he did.

Hathaway, meanwhile, is apparently running a scam. He has been given a Defense Department contract by the government, and is using his selected students as slave labor to do most of the work, while secretly using the grant money to build him a new house. But no harm, as the students try their hardest to complete development, even in the midst of such antics like Knight’s brilliant construction of laser beams which light up the campus grounds, leading students to a “Tanning Invitational” party. When Knight and company finally do realize the scheme they have been engulfed in, they plot a complicated backfiring scheme on Dr. Hathaway, which acquires nearly the last half hour of the movie.

Real Genius remains a comedy classic for many reasons, but mainly for the reason that nearly every character in the movie is written at the highest level, unlike your basic teen comedy where every character but one or two acquire even half a brain. That level of superiority, along with Val Kilmer’s superb comic performance help make Real Genius exactly that.

Video ***1/2

I was thoroughly impressed with Columbia Tri Star’s grand treatment of this 1985 film. It’s also very much a treat because it’s my first time, since seeing this movie in the theaters, where I have been able to see it in the widescreen format. I am very happy to say that this is very much one of CTS’ best looking transfers of an 80s movie. Picture quality is thoroughly crisp and clear, and alive with some truly vibrant colors, which surprised me the most. Only about midway through the presentation does the image encounter a slight bit of grain, but it doesn’t for one second reduce the enjoyment.

Audio ***

I don’t always expect much from a 2.0 audio mix, but Columbia Tri Star has certainly delivered more than I expected, especially for a film with a bit of age to it. The opening sequence in space orbit is a knockout opening, providing superb sound effect on both middle and upper channels. The rest of the presentation consists mostly of clear dialogue and some nice moments of pickup in scenes involving the science lab experiments. One of the more surprising transfers CTS has delivered lately.

Features *

Only two bonus trailers for the CTS releases Hook and Jumanji, which is quite odd, since they share nothing in common with the movie at hand.

Summary:

Real Genius is a rare intelligent comedy that rarely exists in today’s comedies, most notably teen comedies. It’s consistently sharp, smart and most definitely worthy of many laughs.