Real Genius


Real Genius

Critics Consensus

It follows college tropes, but Real Genius has an optimistic streak that puts you on Val Kilmer's side all the way.



Total Count: 28


Audience Score

User Ratings: 34,766
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Movie Info

This teen comedy from director Martha Coolidge stars Gabe Jarret as Mitch, a 15-year-old science whiz who is recruited to join a university think tank that is unwittingly developing a weapon for the military.

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Val Kilmer
as Chris Knight
William Atherton
as Prof. Jerry Hathaway
Patti D'Arbanville
as Sherry Nugil
Louis Giambalvo
as Maj. Carnagle
Ed Lauter
as CIA Man Decker
Jon Gries
as Lazlo Hollyfeld
Mark Kamiyama
as `Ick' Ikagami
Joanne Baron
as Mrs. Taylor
Paul Tulley
as Mr. Taylor
Charles Shull
as Air Force General
Chip Johnson
as Darlington Recruiter
Sandy Martin
as Mrs. Meredith
Joe Dorsey
as Congressman
Lynda Wiesmeier
as Chris' Girl at Party
Marii Mak
as Girls at Party
Catherine McNamara
as Girls at Party
Monte Landis
as Dr. Dodd
Cheri Wells
as Girls at Party
Isabelle Walker
as Girls at Party
Penny Baker
as Ick's Girl at Party
Corki Grazer
as Air Force Sergeant
Marcia Karr
as Cornell's Girl at Party
Severn Darden
as Dr. Meredith
Stacy Peralta
as Shuttle Pilot
Daniel Addes
as Laser Ray Victim
Andrew M. Aybar
as Bartender
Sean Frye
as Boy at Science Fair
Joann Willette
as Girl at Science Fair
Ina Gould
as Old Lady
Martin Gundersen
as Math Professor
Brett Miller
as Carpet Man
Ed Garrabrandt
as TV Makeup Man
Isabel Cooley
as TV Stage Manager
Isabelle Cooley
as TV Stage Manager
Robin Stober
as Waitress
David Marvit
as Student in Hall
Michael Crabtree
as Air Force Gate Guard
Charles Sweigart
as Air Force Gate Guard
Peter Parros
as Air Force Gate Guard
Ron Taylor
as Computer Technician
Ronald Taylor
as Computer Technician
James Carrington
as Air Force Major
Michael Backes
as Air Force Controller
Jeanne Mori
as Laser Technician
David Ursin
as Engineer
Will Knox
as Laser Specialist
Kevin Hurley
as Air Force Technician
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Critic Reviews for Real Genius

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6)

  • Coolidge has gotten onto something here, and the pity is that the story she's stuck with never gets her any deeper into it.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The humor is relentlessly cruel, smug, and disconnected from any sense of how human beings might behave in similar situations.

    May 30, 2007 | Full Review…
  • What lifts the production above the run-of-the-mill is swift direction by Martha Coolidge, who has a firm grasp over the manic material.

    May 30, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • It does make you wonder if the drive of the US education system is ultimately to develop better weapons of mass-destruction, though Coolidge's movie is too hazily good-natured to capitalise on the tougher aspects of the material.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • What the film needs, instead of these familiar teen-movie trappings, is a cleverness and eccentricity to match that of its characters. For the most part, these are qualities that it lacks.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/5
  • Real Genius contains many pleasures, but one of the best is its conviction that the American campus contains life as we know it.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Real Genius

  • Jul 15, 2018
    You know, 80s movies are kind of an anomaly. At least major 80s teen comedies. What I mean by that is even if most of these movies are incredibly shallow (I said most, not all mind you, before you get your pitchforks), they do a better job at cheering you up than, say, a lot of movies in this day and age. Whether it's the fashion, the music, the verbiage, there's just something very charming about 80s teen comedies that, honestly, I enjoy watching even if the movie might not necessarily be what I'd call good. That's, really, why I decided to watch this. I'm not that familiar with this movie, so I was expecting a silly, shallow movie that wasn't any good, but would find a way to cheer me up regardless with its 80sness. Color me surprised when I find out that, actually, this is a legitimately funny and clever movie that, because of comedy being the way it is today, holds up surprisingly well. I don't know how this film was regarded at the time, in relation to its humor, but dare I say that it was ahead of its time, perhaps? Maybe that's not really fair to say, because just because it shares similarities to some modern comedies does not mean that they had a great revelation that this was the way comedy was gonna move forward into the future. Regardless, I genuinely enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I suppose I need to go more in-depth, so here we go. The narrative starts with 15-year-old genius, Mitch, being sent to a science and engineering university in order to work on this chemical laser that the person who recruited him, Professor Hathaway, is working on trying to perfect. Hathaway, however, does not tell Mitch, or any of the other students working on the project, that they're actually working on a lethal weapon for the military. A weapon that can beam a laser at any target they want and kill them instantly within 15-seconds. Most of the movie, of course, however, is Mitch Taylor adjusting to campus life while being roomed with campus legend, Chris Knight, who's also a genius. Chris, however, is a clown. In fact, actually, when assessing Val Kilmer's performance in this movie, I was reminded of Ryan Reynolds. It's the same type of similar sarcastic, sardonic comedic performance that Reynolds has perfected. In fact, Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder is, essentially, Val Kilmer in this movie. It's almost scary the similarities between the two. Not saying that Ryan ripped Val Kilmer off or something, but you can see that there was definitely a lot of inspiration drawn from Kilmer's performance. And, honestly, I can't say that I blame the guy, because Val Kilmer is great in this movie. I really do mean it. Kilmer has always been one of those guys that, very obviously, has a lot of talent, but, for some reason or another, he's never really clicked for one reason or another. I don't know if he had a reputation, which I have heard rumors of, or whatever. But he, while certainly having a very successful career, can't say to have reached the same heights as his...partner in Top Gun, Tom Cruise. And that's despite the fact that, objectively speaking, Val Kilmer is more naturally talented. But, in all honesty, Kilmer (when he's motivated, of course) he can knock it out of the park. This movie is proof of that, as is Top Secret and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I guess that's about enough of Val Kilmer's greatness in this movie. As mentioned, the movie sees Mitch adjusting to campus lifestyle and his, general, disappointment with Chris being a complete goof and somehow who, really, doesn't work as hard as his intelligence suggests he might. We also have to deal with Hathaway being an asshole and rushing Chris and Mitch to finish the laser by a deadline, which is being forced on him by the military. One of the things that surprised me the most is how well-written this movie is. Perhaps not in terms of character development or narrative, I just mean the dialogue is quite good and there's plenty of jokes to be had here. For some reason, though, I don't feel that this is anything more than just a good movie. I think there's some moments between the second and third act when the film slows down. This happens to a lot of comedies before they pick it up again in the third act. There's also some silliness in the third act, like Mitch and Chris sneaking onto a military air base once they find out what Hathaway wants to use their work for. But, to me, everything else worked. You root for the heroes and you want Hathaway to get his comeuppance. It's all simple, but it works in execution. The cast itself is very strong all around. The music is, well, of the 80s and, therefore, it's good in setting the tone. And, most important of all, the movie is just quite entertaining. This review isn't as good as the movie is, but that should be expected. Having said all of that, and this one is shorter than normal, that's about it for this review. This is a fun movie and I would gladly recommend it. Of course, however, don't come in expecting The Godfather. It's a silly 80s comedies, adjust your standards accordingly.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Nov 16, 2010
    This is one of those movies that I wake up one morning and just want to watch, an old faithful if you will. Val Kilmer gives one of his best performances, whether he wants to admit it or not, as Chris Knight, a once was child prodigy who has all the social graces of a man who really does know too much. Hilarious and heartfelt, if this film is not on your shelf at home I suggest it gets there soon!
    Unknown H Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2010
    A funny movies about nerds, I like it better than Revenge of the Nerds, except that it has Kilmer, who's not that good an actor, but overall, it's a funny movie and I enjoyed it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2010
    Cliche'd to the core, but I enjoyed this little flick.
    Tim S Super Reviewer

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