Saturday Movie Review – “Real Genius”

Technically, this is more of a “science geek” movie than a “science fiction” movie, but since lasers at that strength hadn’t been made when this was produced, I’m going to cheat the definitions a bit and post the review anyway.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Val Kilmer as Chris Knight
Gabriel Jarret as Mitch Taylor
Michelle Meyrink as Jordan Cochran
William Atherton as Prof. Jerry Hathaway
Jon Gries as Lazlo Hollyfeld
Robert Prescott as Kent Torokvei

Written by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Peter Torokvei
Directed by Martha Coolidge

Complete information is

available from the IMDB.

Buy from:

Past movie reviews can

be found here.


Mitch Taylor is accepted to a school specifically designed for those who truly excel at academics. He and a collection of other physics students try to cope with classes and Dr. Hathaway’s laser project.

High Point

Chris Knight turns in his final exam.

Low Point

No, that wasn’t liquid nitrogen that was being shaved into dime-sized disks to be fed into the coffee machine. Liquid nitrogen tends to be, well, liquid.

The Scores

This suffers a bit for originality given that it’s another in a long line of college comedies. It runs with the same “outsider(s) coming in, get picked on, meet one antagonist who does something so despicable that the audience can’t possibly feel remorse for him, and then they all get even” formula that makes things so predictable. They do clean it up a bit by choosing to set the entire movie within the geek subculture, by dodging enough nudity to run the movie on network television, and by running two parallel story arcs with two major antagonists. It’s a good application of the formula, but it’s still a formula. I give it 3 out of 6.

The only visual effect is the laser beam, which can (unfortunately) be seen propogating through the air. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is, at first glance, a typical college new-student story. As mentioned above, it adheres to the formula pretty rigidly. Still, it fits that formula very well, and still entertains. The characters, outragous as they may seem, are not atypical of the crowds they depict. (I spent a few years studying physics at University, and have met people with personalities similar to every character you see here.) While you don’t typically see this volume of geek-related stunts in the course of a single year, you can see one or two. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting works in large part due to such bang-on perfect casting across the board. Atherton, Kilmer, Prescott, Gries, Jarret and Meyrink all fit their roles perfectly. They don’t seem to be acting, but instead give completely natural performances in their respective roles. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. I find the movie extremely funny. I’ve watched it with people who haven’t gone through the academic programs I’ve gone through, and they thoroughly enjoy it as well. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production includes the aspects that impress me most. The set and costumes are just perfect. From the geek grafitti to the recognizable textbooks to Dean Devlin’s equation-laden T-shirt, they just nailed the environment that these people immerse themselves in. The use of actual, viable physics on the blackboards was impressive, too. (Most shows that use real formulae pick them at random, so the equations you see on the board at one time will have little or no connection between them.) The creation of the environment makes up for the pedestrian direction common to comedies such as this one. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a very entertaining movie, and a definite geek classic. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Real Genius receives 33 out of 42.

2 replies on “Saturday Movie Review – “Real Genius””

  1. Additional Low Point
    The sweepstakes. Yes, you can enter as often as you wish, but they forgot to mention the postage cost associated with all the entries–which would be prohibitive for the number of entries they had.

    Check out Chad’s News

  2. Low points
    IMDB notes that the "liquid nitrogen" was in the thermos, keeping the column of CO2 cold.

    Also, Lazlo was a genius; he would have a way around the postage cost (using University postage machine maybe?)

    IMDB also notes the sweepstakes mirrors three students who sent in 1/5 of the the entries to McDonalds. They won a station wagon, $3,000 and $1,500 in food gift certificates.

    Another informative web page that lists Cal Tech references:

    I’m not sure I could pick a low point in his movie…

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