Retro Review: Real Genius

Over the last two nights as I sat unwinding from editing my latest Work In Progress I re-watched Real Genius. Hailing from 1985 the movie is about abnormally bright people and the University that they attended. (A very thinly disguised cinematic version of CalTech.) Real Genius is the second movie to introduce me to Val Kilmer. This first is Top Secret! the box office failure that is a favorite of mine and Weird Al Yankovic. Unlike the better known Revenge of the Nerds Real Genius has a genuine affection for its smart and somewhat socially outcast intelligent characters.

The plot is direct and straight-forward, Mitch Taylor a genius at 15 has been discovered and selected by professor Hathaway for early admission into the school. Hathaway has an secret motive in recruiting Mitch. Hathaway, played by 80’s light villain William Atherton, is late in delivering a laser capable of assassinating a person from orbit and he wants Mitch’s brilliance to help his team deliver the weapon no one knows that they are working on. On Hathaway’s team is Chris Knight, (Val Kilmer) the leading smart man but also someone who lives life to the fullest and is a cut-up. This is a coming of age story for young Mitch, learning hard lessons about being lied to and find love with the quirky, manic, but certainly not a ‘pixie girl’ Jordan. (Played wonderfully by Michelle Meyrink who, but the end of the 80s, retired from acting for personal fulfillment via Zen Buddism.) Truly, I remember 30 years ago sitting in the theater just captivated by Michelle’s Jordon. Who could not love that character?

This is a farce, the characters are overdrawn, the science is not possible but nor is it simply magic, and the being an 80s movie there are several musical montages, but this film works and it is worth your time.