Real Genius (1985)

(Second Viewing, on DVD, June 2011) The danger is revisiting an old favourite whose memories have faded is discovering the dull bits in-between the remembered highlights.  While Real Genius is still an amusing-enough film with a strong whiff of mid-eighties Cold War atmosphere that now adds to the comedy, it’s far more leisurely paced than I remembered, and the standout lines (“A girl’s got to have standards.”) feel more like abnormalities in the middle of a far less funny film.  The surprisingly heavy military satire takes a lot more time than I remembered, and the script doesn’t have the zing than its more inspired moments lead to remember.  Still, judged by the standards of films now twenty-five years in the past, Real Genius has survived pretty well: Its portrait of gifted students is sympathetic, and never more so when the brash and self-confident character played by Val Kilmer (looking impossibly young) reveals that he’s behaving this way to avoid burnout.  Compared to Kilmer, film anchor Gabriel Jarret is practically a non-entity –overshadowed by a flashier supporting character, and not given anything interesting to do by the script.  The ending at least has the decency to wrap everything on a high notes, with the memorable popcorn explosion and an oh-so-typically-eighties musical moment with Tears for Fear’s “Everybody wants to Rule the World”.  In-between the comic set-pieces, Kilmer snark and odd moments of antiestablishment politics, Real Genius is just fine –not a classic, clearly, but a fond memory.  The DVD, unfortunately, has no extra features.

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