September 18th, 2011: Real Genius

Cast and Crew: Martha Coolidge (Director); Neal Israel and Pat Proft (Writers); Brian Grazer (Producer); Thomas Newman (Score); Michelle Meyrink, Jon Gries, Stacey Peralta, Ed Lauter, Robert Prescott, Dean Devlin, Deborah Foreman

What It’s About:   Dr. Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton) recruits Mitch (Gabriel Jarret), a high-school genius, to enroll in his university and join his team working on an advanced laser project. Mitch’s roommate Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) is an even bigger genius who’s learned that being a smart guy doesn’t have to make you a socially inept nerd or a slave for the Jerry Hathaways of the world.  Can these two opposites learn to work together to finish the project so that Chris can graduate, and just how long will it take them to figure out exactly what the intended real world use of their laser is?

Why Watch it Today?: Today is the first day of Cal-Tech’s new student orientation.  The high-end tech university with students known for elaborate pranks featured in Real Genius is very much inspired by Cal-Tech, and in fact there are many Cal-Tech in-jokes contained in the film.  Real Genius is easily the best of the 1980s “nerd” comedies, a film in which all the leads, and most of their antagonists, are very smart people, and, even if some are odd or socially awkward, they’re still fun and creative. The conflict is not in surviving and avenging the slings and arrows of the jocks, but in making sure their gifts are used for good (and pranks) rather than ill (in this case making huge lasers for the military).   

Where to Get It:  Watch online at Youtube, Crackle, Amazon, iTunes or Netflix (rental)

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