Real Genius [1985]

“Well, gentlemen, now what? Things are going okay so far, aren’t they?”


This is another one of those films that I watched MONTHS ago and didn’t have the capacity to blog about at the time, so here goes NOTHINK!

This sci-fi comedy film, directed by Martha Coolidge, stars Val Kilmer and Gabriel Jarret. It’s about a bunch of nerd-bros at a science and engineering university. Kilmer’s character Chris Knight is working on a science project for his degree which involves LASERSSSSSS but little does he know that his professor has been covertly working with the CIA to develop that project into a weapon. Not only that but one which would allow them to do nefarious things FROM SPACE!!! Chris is roomed with a bright, young high school student called Mitch who he shows the ropes to, which seems to involve bullying him (I guess it was a different time eh…?), a lot of partays and foam and drinking and getting up to no good. And then there’s a mysterious character who keeps disappearing into their wardrobe which makes it like some weird version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Basically it all comes down to this final project which goes through twists and turns involving sabotage by a fellow student interspersed with some 80s tunes and montages. Eventually Chris nails the design which pleases his professor who then steals the laser. Chris learns about the true nature of the task too late and realises the laser is gone! There’s a weird, goofy bit where they put a radio transmitter into the mouth of their fellow student to learn more about this plot to get the location of an air force base. They reprogram the machine so the laser points to a prism which ends up exploding a bunch of popcorn in the professors home. SUCCESS! **jumps mid-air with a fist punched to the air so you know it’s a REAL success, one fit for a REAL genius! HUZZAH! ETC!**

So… what an odd film. I don’t have too much to say about it; it’s not a complex film, and I don’t have complex feelings about it.

I watched this with my Plex Film Club buddies. I’ve probably mentioned them before. HEY BUDS!

This is exactly the kind of film you need to watch with friends because it is so so so goofy that if you watch it alone, you won’t make it to the end.

It’s typical of a lot of the more corny 80s science fiction in that it follows the same sort of formula. There’s a humorous, ‘dashing’ lead who outsmarts them all with just a few montages set to a synthy soundtrack. Somewhere in the mix is a foe, a bunch of loyal friends, one girl or woman to act as the romantic storyline and in the end the lead + pals always win, and the foe is ridiculed. HOW THEY LAUGH HO HO HO. I think if I hadn’t seen so many films that follow this same formula, I would be more enthusiastic about it, but I think it was missing something for me. I guess I am comparing it to other similar sciencey protagonist storyline films of its time like WarGames which ended up way more entertaining and which I hold in higher regard. Also I would say I’ve seen Val Kilmer – in my eyes – at his best later on in his career through Willow and even Batman, so for lots of reasons this film feels pretty juvenile. But I guess what can you expect from a film labelling itself REAL GENIUS. Say the title as if you are Trevor Noah mimicking Donald Trump. I dare you. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the film.

Overall, it was enjoyable and one to watch with the lads. Fun, 80s white Americana nostalgia if you like that sorta thing, but nothing really to write home about and it hasn’t stood the test of time for me. Soz.

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