Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Revenge of the Nerds</strong> (1984)

(Second Viewing, On DVD, February 2011) The early-to-mid-eighties saw their share of college-set comedies, but few of them became part of popular culture.  If Revenge of the Nerds is any exception, it’s probably because of its outright pro-nerd message: Nerds have the fortunate tendency to take over the world’s technical infrastructure, and so it’s no accident if the film would be fondly remembered during an era where the Internet has made intellectuals kind of admirable.  (Nah, I kid: it’s all about the underdog, and everyone thinks they’re the underdog.) As a film, Revenge of the Nerds isn’t much to celebrate: everything about the production shows its age and low-budget origins and the direction is no better from countless other B-grade comedies.  In terms of subject matter, however, the screenplay is clever enough to marry geekery with college debauchery and underdog plotting (sometimes coming a bit too close to trivializing the plight of other minorities): the result hasn’t aged well, but it has held up a lot better than other films of its era.  There are even a few surprises in the casting, from John Goodman as a bullying coach, to James Cromwell as the protagonist Robert Carradine’s very-nerdy dad.  Dramatically, the film falls a bit flat toward the end without a clear climax (the beginning of the third act seems tighter than its end), but with such an amiable film, who’s to nit-pick?  Die-hard nerds may quibble at the questionable nerdiness of some of the members of Lambda Lambda Lambda (and their readiness to take up ordinary college antics), but that’s part of the film’s inclusiveness: Everybody’s a nerd now!  The “Panty Raid Edition” DVD contains the kind of audio commentary track that reflects the good times the filmmakers had in making the film, as well as a few featurettes to reinforce the feeling.  More amusingly, it also has a wretched sitcom pilot from the early nineties that shows everything that’s wrong with cheap scripted TV comedy.

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