Paramount // PG // $19.99 // September 23, 2003
Review by DVD Savant | posted September 8, 2003
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

I.Q. wants to be the cutest romantic comedy on the block, but only gets about halfway to where it's going. The casting is excellent, but the idea is tired - it's got cutes the way people used to get leprosy. It's easy to see what the makers had in mind (and Fred Schepisi's no slouch in the directorial department) but in the final analysis, no cigar. It's the script, folks. Just acting like a wacko 30s comedy isn't enough.


Albert Einstein (Walter Matthew) hangs around with his physicist pals trying to solve the problem of his niece Catherine Boyd's love life. Catherine (Meg Ryan) is engaged to priggish psychological researcher James Morland (Stephen Fry), but romantic sparks fly when she collides with Ed Walters (Tim Robbins), a garage mechanic who reads Sci-fi magazines. Albert decides to let Ed pretend he's a budding scientific genius, with a little help from the brain trust.

It's the 50s, folks, which means everyone wears color-coded pastels and the cars are all shiny and clean. Meg Ryan attends classes in bobby sox, while grease monkey Tim Robbins makes working in a garage look glamorous. Any romance where these too get together shouldn't be a problem; in '94, they were two of the most attractive leads in Hollywood.

I.Q. isn't about that, however, it's about the gimmick of turning kindly old Albert Einstein into a sweet little old matchmaker - yah? This is a new Einstein. He and his buddies love rock'n roll, dream of having a convertible car, and play by riding their rolling blackboards like 5 year-olds. They've got more quips than the Ritz Brothers:

Garage Mechanic Tony Shaloub:
"Hey, you're Albert Einstein! E equals M C squared, right?"

"I hope so."

That's the level of wit here. Unfortunately, the greatest physicists in the world are shown spending their time debating Physics 101 questions and Twilight Zone conversation starters like the one about the guy who stays on Earth while the other one travels at the speed of light to the end of the universe and back ... you get the idea, it's that lame.

The problem is that the science is just there for the cutes. These brains have nothing better to do than run around like 4 of the 7 dwarfs, concerning themselves with Meg Ryan's love life. Lou Jacobi, Gene Saks and Joseph Maher are like agreeable pixies who go out for ice cream and play badminton. They're so infantile, the show resembles a screenplay draft Billy Wilder might have thrown out before he hit upon the old Ball of Fire, which at least had scholars for all seven of the dwarfs. Or dwarves. I give up.

Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Matthau are all adorable in their parts, so we wish they had more of a plot than a creaky 'fake genius' hoax that will have to be resolved with a romantic confession. The feelings are all in the right place, but the predictability factor is too high. One look at Robbins' romantic competition, an insufferably snobbish loon with an English accent, fer chrissakes, and the romantic suspense is over. What's left are some nice scenes where Meg waxes indecisive, Tim Robbins does his deer-in-the-headlights I'm In Love act, and Matthau makes with the kleine Deutsche cute schtick, which isn't bad. He's made to blabber 'Albert Einstein' jokes all the time, as if people might forget who he's supposed to be. The low point is a 'funny' motorcycle ride for ol' Al, whooping it up with Tim.

The photography is lovely, some of Jerry Goldsmith's music is nice, and there are some okay moments with the stars, but everything about I.Q. says standard Romantic Comedy, by the numbers. Oh, yes, our hero is confronted with his lies at a big meeting (with Eisenhower present) and everybody gets together to witness Meg's dad's comet for a finale. There' a bunch of faux-physics gibberish about accidents and non-accidents in the universe, to describe the cosmic attraction of our stars, but it's forced whimsy, and doesn't wash.

Meg Ryan was on a career roll in 94, and this film couldn't stop her, but Tim Robbins' sputtering track record wasn't helped by this one ... when much of his best work, like The Hudsucker Proxy had back luck at the boxoffice, he just never became solidly bankable. As for Walter Matthau, he comes out shining, a case of character overcoming bad script.

Paramount's DVD of I.Q. looks great. I'd only seen it pan-scanned before and it's quite handsome in 16:9 widescreen. The film couldn't ask for a better plain-wrap presentation. And featureless it is, as there's not even a trailer. The 'special features' list on the package back is a list of things like 'English subtitles' and the disc's audio configurations.

If you're a swooning Meg Ryan fan (I still love her in several pix like Innerspace and Joe Versus the Volcano) forget the tirade above; you'll like her here, especially her cool hairstyle.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, I.Q. rates:
Movie: Fair ++
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none, but don't worry, they're not rated
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 8, 2003

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