Gabriel Jarrett

Real Genius (1985)

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.