Sony // 1985 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // July 10th, 2002
"Compared to you, most people have the IQ of a carrot."
For those, like myself, who are children of the 1980s, Real Genius is one of the defining comedies of our generation. In my humble opinion, the film falls in line just behind Ferris Bueller's Day Off and ahead of The Breakfast Club, Better Off Dead, and Sixteen Candles. Not to disappoint you, but unfortunately this isn't exactly the grand DVD unveiling you might have been expecting.
Mitch (Gabriel Jarret) is a prodigy -- a teen whiz kid plucked from high school geekdom by Professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) to become the newest member of his scientific braintrust. Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) is Mitch's new college roommate and predecessor -- Hathaway's last egghead du jour who has realized babes and beer are much more rewarding than statistical analysis and scientific formulae. Together the two have been assigned to complete creation of a new high-powered über-laser. While Chris is looking forward to life after graduation and Mitch is begging to return home, defacto roommate Lazlo -- the strange guy who lives their closet (long story) -- realizes the true intent behind the laser's creation. It doesn't take an Einstein to realize it's not a smart idea to doublecross a genius.
It's been a long time since I last saw this movie and I have to admit, it's just as fresh and entertaining as it was back in 1985. True, the sensibilities and fashion may have changed, but the portrayal of greed and manipulation by those in a position of power is just as relevant to the world today. The military manipulates Hathaway, Hathaway manipulates his students, the older students manipulate the younger students -- and so on, and so on, and so on. Sooner or later, we all get to a point where it's just not worth playing by the rules any longer. In this case, it's the geek, not the meek, who shall outsmart The Man and inherit the Earth -- while having a really good time in the process.
While it's true the acting in this picture wasn't destined to win any major awards, the characterizations remain fun to watch. Fresh off his feature film debut in Top Secret!, Val Kilmer is in his zone as a twenty-something version of Bruce Willis' Moonlighting character, David Addison. Interestingly enough, Kilmer was the only member of the cast to secure Hollywood star status. Gabe Jarret (Mitch) landed a few television guest spots and supporting roles in films such as An American President and Apollo 13, but nothing to write home about. William Atherton has also toiled around the industry for years, playing similarly smarmy characters in films such as Die Hard, Ghostbusters, The Pelican Brief, and who could forget...Pauly Shore's Bio-Dome. Behind the cameras, however, it has been a different story -- with much respect and much success. Director Martha Coolidge was behind the camera for Halle Berry's critically acclaimed film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and now serves as the President of the Director's Guild of America. Producer Brian Grazer went on to form Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard and create some of the biggest films in recent history, including Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind.
As for the physical evidence, this film is given renewed life in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a 1.33:1 full screen version thrown in for those who prefer. Aside from a few appearances of some minor dirt and scratches, the transfer is great. The colors appear a little washed out at times but nothing of any severity. In terms of audio, Dolby Digital 2.0 is somewhat of a disappointment. However, aside from the great musical tracks -- such as Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" -- there is nothing here that requires 5.1 Surround. All in all, the film is quite suitable for your viewing pleasure.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, we now present the most damning evidence in this trial. While heretofore, we have heard an abundance of glowing remarks for the film, its cast, and its crew, this package's collection of special features, or lack thereof, is inexcusable. Photo-static menus? Two studio trailers for such irrelevant films as Hook and Jumanji? This is ridiculous. Where is the justice here people?! With Hollywood heavyweights such as Kilmer, Grazer, and Coolidge involved, there is no excuse on God's Green Earth why Columbia should treat this much-loved film with such low regard.
While I am very happy to see Real Genius brought to DVD, I can't help but feel we've all been cheated by Columbia's shortsightedness. For the diehard fans of this film, I strongly recommend adding it to your collection -- just see if you can buy it used. For everyone else, by all means go out and rent it. You will be thoroughly entertained.
Columbia TriStar is found GUILTY of not giving Real Genius the special DVD treatment it so richly deserves. They are hereby sentenced to 24 months in solitary confinement to reflect on the crimes they have committed and set to work on the creation of a true collector's edition. This court now stands in recess.
Review content copyright © 2002 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Studio Trailers