Fox // 1984 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 6th, 2007
"No one will be free until nerd persecution ends."
Pocket protectors, horn-rimmed glasses, and full-frontal female nudity collide in this '80s frat classic about the clash of classes between the crass asses and the spazzes with glasses.
Newly graduated from high school and heading to the prestigious Adams College, best friends Louis (Robert Carraddine, Lizzy McGuire) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards, E.R.) are excited for a fresh start. You see, they're nerds. Big ones. High-prescription spectacles, ill-fitting pants, slicked hair, obnoxious laughter, proficiency with a Tandy, all the necessary ingredients of '80s nerd-dom are present.
Their hopes for a clean slate are quickly dashed when the jock-laden Alpha Beta fraternity makes it their mission to harass any nerds that populate the college. After Gilbert, Louis, and their fellow freshmen rejects are forced out of their dorm, they form their own fraternity (Lambda Lambda Lambda), made up entirely of the college's social outcasts. But to achieve legitimacy, they will have to band together and fight off the malicious machinations of the Alpha Betas.
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I had never seen Revenge of the Nerds before this review. I had caught pieces of it on TV, here and there, but as we all know, edited, watered-down television transfers do little justice to the source material. This throwback to the raunchy college comedies of yesteryear needs to be appreciated the way it was meant to be, and this DVD provides an impressive avenue to get your fill of beer-soaked class warfare.
The overview: Revenge of the Nerds has some prime moments -- anything with Booger (Curtis Anderson), usually -- but I wouldn't label it a particularly uproarious movie. It was, however, relentlessly amusing and boasts that nebulous watchability that '80s sleaze comedies tend to share. The film is stocked with memorable characters, from Timothy Busfield's freakish Poindexter to Ted McGinley's a-hole jock Stan Gable, and contains a trove of quotable lines (e.g. "That's my pi!" or "What the f -- -- is a frush?!"). It's dopey, but there is some charm here and underneath the breasts, belching contests, and nose-picking beats an actual heart. The bonfire finale is contrived, sure, but the anti-nerd persecution speech surely connected with some of society's downtrodden.
It's easy to see why this film is a cult classic, despite its myriad of shortcomings. On one hand, you have classic frat-boy humor, with guys taking flying leaping into kiddie pools filled with beer, nerds getting tarred and feathered, and liquid heat rubbed on the football team's jock straps. On the other, you have the weird alumni-sanctioned Homecoming carnival that encourages potential alcohol poisoning, the nonsensical romance between Louis and blonde bombshell Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery), who, after being duped into sleeping with the nerd -- the same nerd who ogled her bare chest while hiding in her shower, took pictures of her topless, and stuck them on pie plates for all the campus to see -- somehow falls in love with him, and the awkward hidden-camera voyeurism with Booger clamoring for a glimpse of female genitalia. Though, when the math is done, the plot misfires. Lame jokes and character breakdowns are trumped by the memorable moments, a few of which I shall list here:
Anything Involving Poindexter
As Busfield relates in the accompanying documentary, Poindexter's memorable look was fashioned from a trip to the thrift store while he was preparing the character. Kickass Coke bottle glasses aside, this guy is the Prince of the Nerds, and his weird guttural howl is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. His funniest moment, when he glances at his crotch while watching the nude sorority girls and screams at a burgeoning erection was improvised on the spot. Director Jeff Kanew can be heard laughing in the background.
The Performance Piece At the End of the Homecoming Carnival
Surreal, freakish and '80s-riffic, the ensemble song and dance routine including an electric violin, some dueling synthesizers, and a Japanese man dressed as an Indian banging on a gong will forever haunt my waking moments.
This sequence earns a mention not so much for its wit, but more for its audacity. In response to a prank, the nerds assault the Pi Delta Pi sorority house, steal panties, gawk at their various states of undress, and plant cameras in strategic locations. They then settle in for the night watching their footage, which includes the gratuitous shot of a woman removing her underwear. Carradine, in the documentary, comments that Revenge of the Nerds would probably earn a PG-13 these days and wasn't all that raunchy, but there is no way they could get away with the full frontal nudity.
Don Gibb would only outdo himself in Bloodsport, and that's saying a lot.
Revenge of the Nerds receives an attractive 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (I watched it on my Xbox 360, using the VGA upconversion) that maintains a remarkable sense of crispness and color levels despite the film's age. The stereo track is adequate, and sounds better when decoded through Dolby ProLogic. A nice set of extras come with the DVD: The "I'm a Nerd, And I'm Pretty Proud of It" feature is excellent, bringing together cast and crew members that aren't resistant to unlading the behind-the-scenes dirt; Jeff Kanew, Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, and Curtis Armstrong provide a low-key, yet amusing commentary; Eight minutes of deleted scenes aren't anything special; and if you're in a self-abusive mood, check out the bonus TV pilot for Revenge of the Nerds, a truly Godforsaken bit of entertainment.
A bodacious blast from the past, Revenge of the Nerds is raunchy, stupid, borderline offensive -- and lots of fun. This DVD is a solid investment for fans of old school frat comedies.
Not guilty. Haw haw haw haw haw.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director and Cast Commentary
* "I'm a Nerd, and I'm Pretty Proud of It" Featurette
* Deleted Scenes
* Television Pilot
* Theatrical Trailer