Film Review: Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
The difference between reality and Hollywood fiction appears to be the clearest in films dealing with students’ life at American institutions of higher learning. While very few films try to depict hard studying and none seems to be dealing with soul-crushing issues of student debt, majority tends to portray life of American college and university students as an endless party. This perception was firmly established in 1980s with numerous raunchy sex comedies, among which the best known is Revenge of the Nerds, 1984 film directed by Jeff Kanew.
The protagonists are Lewis Skolnick (played by Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (played by Anthony Edwards), two best friends who share love of computers, fashion and mannerism that unmistakably identifies them at nerds. They have enrolled at Adams College, institution renowned for its computer program, but they also hope that they would open new chapter in their lives when it comes to relations to opposite sex. Reality, however, turns out to be completely different, because the campus is dominated by Alpha Betas, student fraternity made of sports jocks who not only have romantic monopoly on the most attractive female students, but also look at nerds with utter disdain. When Alpha Betas accidentally burn down their fraternity house they violently expels freshmen from their dorms and Lewis and Gilbert are forced to sleep in the gym. After experiencing bullying and humiliation, two of them are joined by the group of other misfits and form their own fraternity. They build their own fraternity house from where they begin to plot their revenge against their tormentors, using their superior intellect as tool against Alpha Betas’ physical prowess.
This comedy is based on a very simple and non-original concept of underdogs triumphing over established adversaries. Confident of that simple formula, the authors didn’t bother with too much creativity and Revenge of the Nerds features cliched characters. Weak plot is just an excuse for series of simple gags that often deal with gross out humour or feature female nudity designed to bring male teenagers to cinemas. There are elements in the script that point to be somewhat progressive for its time, like one of the nerds being portrayed as openly gay black man (played by Larry B. Scott) or the ending that features sermon about tolerance and human dignity. Modern critics, however, are likely to accuse this film of sexism and the scene in which lead jock-aligned cheerleader (played by Julia Montgomery) gets deceived into having sex with one of the nerdish protagonists is nowadays often seen as promoting rape. Although it got bad or mixed reviews at the time, Revenge of the Nerds became successful at the box office and spawned two predictably inferior sequels. This might be best explained by very talented cast that brought life to their one-dimensional and stereotypical characters, which includes both protagonists and villains, including John Goodman as intimidating coach. In the end, Revenge of the Nerds is still mildly entertaining and occasionally funny film that benefits from its short running time. Some of today’s audience, however, might be put off by the title itself, because they might reminding them of former nerds like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos that recently began to do to the whole world what their fictional counterparts did to the jocks in this film.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
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Movie URL: https://www.themoviedb.org/movie/14052-revenge-of-the-nerds