Saturday, June 20, 2015

No Regrets for My Youth

I must have missed Real Genius (1985) when it came out because I was out of the demographic - this is a college youth comedy and I'd been out of college 10 years - not long enough for nostalgia to kick in. Or maybe I thought it was just a stupid movie like Young Einstein. But it's not - it's pretty smart.

It stars Gabriel Jarret as a 15-year-old genius, recruited for the laser program at FakeTech College (fictional Caltech, I guess). He discovers his roommate is senior Val Kilmer, who was also recruited at a young age, but burned out. Jarret is naive and a bit dweeby, Kilmer is a kooky slacker, so this looks like the usual odd-couple kook teaches the uptight guy to have fun - and it kind of is. But note that everyone in the dorm is a kooky genius, except for a few stick-in-the-muds.

There's a great scene where Mark Kamiyama as Ick Ikigami covers the dorm floors with ice and everyone has an indoor sledding party. This is the scene where Jarret meets Michelle Meyrink, a Molly Ringwaldesque motor-mouth insomniac genius who is missing some social boundaries. Of course, Jarret falls in love, and so did I.

When I was that age, I was a bit of a genius - not a real genius, but I did go to summer math camp and hang out with them. At college, my frat was kind of like the dorm - just as intellectual, but not so scientific. Our pranks depended more on knowledge of Li Po's poetry or the Albanian monarchy rather than lasers or Ice-9. One thing I always felt was missing from comedies of this type (say, Revenge of the Nerds) is women - it turns out that there were plenty of oddball women with brilliant minds, unconventional life philosophies and quirky socialization. Heck, I married one.

Somehow these comedies are all about awkward boys chasing hot chicks - there's even a scene like that here, where Kilmer sets up a party with girls from the nearby beautician's school. But at least one real geek girl with a personality of her own exists and for that I thank the people who made this movie.

Those people, by the way, seem to be responsible for a bunch of those lame comedies I was complaining about. Director Martha Coolidge also directed Valley Girl and Joy of Sex. The writers, Neal Israel and Pat Proft who did things like Porky's II and Police Academy. So either I'm misjudging their other movies (never seen 'em), or I'm misjudging this one - maybe it just seems smart because it hits my sweet spot.

I've left out a lot in this summary - the odd ghost of a burned out grad student, the whole evil government weapons project, the great final popcorn-related final prank, etc. And I have to say this isn't really a great teen comedy, just better than the usual run. Enjoyable.

In conclusion, I would like to dedicate this review to Lee Hen, Pat McRoyne, The Beautiful but Deadly Melinda Hungeredfor, LaGuerre "Polly" Nomial, Oh Wicked Wanda and all the other women I knew then, most of all, Ms. Spenser.

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