From the Archive: Real Genius

real genius

Here is another of the short reviews I wrote for the “Movies That Shoulda Been Summer Blockbusters” episode of The Reel Thing, aired during the sweltering season of 1991. Looking at this review now, I’m struck by how little I actually wrote about a movie that was a heavy repeat-viewing favorite among my friend group. I feel like I owe director Martha Coolidge and her uncommonly smart comedy another pass.

When Real Genius came out in the summer of 1985, it was amidst a glut of comedies with a scientific twist. Weird Science, My Science Project, and Creator all saw release at around the same time. But Real Genius was the only one that really deserved to enjoy some summertime success.

The film stars Val Kilmer as an offbeat, slightly frazzled but ultimately brilliant college student who joins his colleagues in developing an ultra-powerful laser. They’re elated by their discovery until they find out that their invention is going to be used to create weaponry for the U.S. government. The film presents a fascinating group of students who interact on the college campus and really has fun with the students’ abilities to use their scientific knowledge to create excellent parties; turning dorm hallways into toboggan chutes may be the most notable trick.

Val Kilmer delivers his most likable performance in the lead role, capturing every bit of his character’s goofy charm. Even when the film isn’t wildly funny or particularly challenging, it’s still filled with enough good spirits to make for a highly enjoyable venture.