Real Genius

Real Genius

Synopsis of Movie

It’s tough to be the ‘genius’ in a teen comedy, because the smart characters always seem to end up as comic relief. Real Genius bucked this trend in a memorable way. By taking characters who would normally be considered misfits and turning them into likable and resourceful heroes, Real Genius managed to be the rarest of rarities: an intelligent teen comedy.

The story focuses on Mitch, a young genius who feels out of place at his high school. When he wins the science fair with a laser beam project, he is singled out by legendary scientist Professor Hathaway for a special program. In short order, Mitch is whisked off to Cal Tech University and becomes part of Hathaway’s think tank of brilliant students.

Mitch is quickly befriended by Chris Knight, who is both the school’s brightest mind and its most notorious prankster. He also finds a love interest in the endearingly hyperactive Jordan. With friends like these, Mitch starts to loosen up as he begins having fun for the first time in his life.

Just the same, things are not all fun and games at Cal Tech. Mitch and Chris discover that Hathaway intends to take credit the laser beam project they are working on and sell it to the military as a high-tech assassination device. After realizing they have been duped, Mitch and Chris band together with the other students to set thing rights and give the arrogant Hathaway the comeuppance he deserves.

Real Genius managed to be smart and witty all at once. The high-tech pranks enacted by the whiz kids were both amusing and intriguingly complex, the best example being when they turn a lecture hall into a disco by diverting laser beams from a lab. The plot moved along at a quick pace, blending funny quips and clever science-oriented gags with a vast array of likeable and unique young characters.

These young brainiacs were the heart of Real Genius, possessing more interesting quirks and fully-rounded personalities than many teen films. Gabe Jarrett was appealing and sympathetic as Mitch, and Michelle Meyrink was believably off-kilter as the good-hearted oddball Jordan. Val Kilmer in particular turned in a career-making performance as Chris Knight, a genius who has realized that work must be balanced with fun for a worthwhile life. Although he moved on to primarily dramatic work in films like Top Gun and Willow, he showed off a dazzling sense of comic timing in this film.

Real Genius also boasted an array of amusing supporting characters who added a great deal of color to the proceedings: Jonathan Gries as Laslo, a burnt-out former whiz kid who lives in the steam tunnels beneath the school; Robert Prescott as the school’s resident snitch, Kent; and William Atherton as the charismatic but arrogant Professor Hathaway.

Although it only found moderate success at the box office, Real Genius has become one of the most beloved cult movies of the 1980’s over the years. Chris Knight has become an idol to many real-life college whiz kids, and the film continues to be an oft-quoted favorite to anyone who grew up in the 1980’s.

Movie Release History

1985 - Real Genius

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Val Kilmer Chris Knight
Gabe Jarrett Mitch
William Atherton Professor Hathaway
Michelle Meyrink Jordan
Jon Gries Laslo Hollyfeld
Robert Prescott Kent

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