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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Real Genius
Real Genius
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // June 11, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 4, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A rare bright comedy about intelligent kids, "Real Genius" is an underrated gem of a movie that's gained a considerable cult following since its 1985 release. The film stars Gabe Jarret as Mitch Taylor, a high-IQ 15-year-old who easily gets recruited to a well-regarded University by professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton). Mitch even finds out that his "hero", now-older fellow genius Chris Knight (Val Kilmer) is going to be his roommate.

Knight's now turned into something of a prankster and, while Mitch does fairly well in classes, he returns to the dorm and, in one instance, finds that Chris has turned it into a skating rink. It's interesting to see Kilmer in a comedic role - he's been such an ultra-serious actor over the years that "Real Genius" serves as a surprising reminder that he actually has some comedic timing.

Meanwhile, there has to be a villian and Atherton can play a stereotypical one fairly well. It turns out that the professor is having his students build a laser not because he wants to actually help science, but help the government create a new weapon. Most of the story's focus, however, revolves around Chris teaching Mitch that you don't have to study all the time - there has to be a little time in there for fun, as well.

The screenplay by Pat Proft ("Naked Gun" series) and Neal Israel (TV's "Love Boat: The Next Wave") has some familiar elements, but there's also some very funny lines of dialogue on several occasions and well-written, quirky and amusing characters. Technically, the film looks pretty nice, as well, with cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond ("Close Encounters of the Third Kind"). The performances are fine, too - the only thing that seems dated at this point is the music.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Real Genius" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen on one side of the disc, while the other side houses a pan & scan presentation. Obviously, the anamorphic widescreen edition is the one to view instead of the very cropped pan & scan offering. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation offered better picture quality than I would've expected from a 1985 picture, but some flaws are still occasionally noticed from time to time. Sharpness and detail vary; most of the film appeared crisp and well-defined, although softness was somewhat noticable during a few scenes.

Little else was wrong with the image quality. Grain was occasionally present, but only in light amounts that weren't bothersome. No pixelation was seen and only a few tiny traces of edge enhancement were spotted. Print flaws were kept to a minimum, with only a speck or two. The film's rather unremarkable color palette was nicely presented, never appearing smeared. Overall, this is a very nice transfer, especially considering the film's age.

SOUND: "Real Genius" is presented in Dolby 2.0. There's really nothing terribly exceptional about the soundtrack, which is certainly dialogue-driven. Audio quality is fine, as the dated-sounding score is crisp and clear, as is dialogue.

MENUS: Basic, non-animated main and sub-menus.

EXTRAS: The only extras are trailers for "Jumanji" and "Hook".

Final Thoughts: "Real Genius" still stands up well today - certainly better than most comedies put out from around the same time period. Columbia/Tristar's DVD dissapoints in the supplemental section, where I think many of the film's fans would have liked to have heard a director's commentary or other supplements. Still, the DVD succeeds where it counts, offering fine audio/video. Recommended.
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