Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Revenge of the Nerds" (1984)

Starring Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards and Curtis Armstrong
Written by Jeff Buhai, Miguel Tejada-Flores and Steve Zacharias
Directed by Jeff Kanew

"Revenge of the Nerds" is one of those movies I'd seen on TV a lot while growing up.  As such, I really didn't have much of a notion that the movie is, in fact, rated R.  Rewatching it, I noticed many familiar jokes, but also a more adult level to the language and situations that I'd never noticed as a kid.  It's a lot like how I grew up thinking that "Ghostbusters" was really just a cool ghost story rather than one of the funniest comedies ever made.

Best buds and ultra-nerds Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) are heading off for their freshman year of college.  Once they arrive, they're immediately faced with a familiar situation: persecution by jocks.  The members of the football team are also in the Alpha Beta fraternity, who manage to burn down their house during a drunken party trick gone wrong.  As a result, Coach Harris (John Goodman) bullies Dean Ulich (David Wohl) into allowing the team to move into the freshman dorm, displacing the freshmen into the gym. 


Lewis and Gilbert, along with a number of other lively characters are unable to secure alternate living conditions until they manage to rent a run-down house nearby and fix it up.  They find their frat brothers in Poindexter (Timothy Busfield), a nervous violin player, Wormser (Andrew Cassese) a 12-year-old prodigy, Booger (Curtis Armstrong) a slacker with poor hygiene, Takashi (Brian Tochi) an eager but naive Japanese nerd, and Lamar (Larry B. Scott) an extremely effeminate homosexual.

The Alpha Betas are led by Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), the arrogant team quarterback, Ogre (Donald Gibb) a massive, disgusting jock, and Burke (Matt Salinger), Stan's lackey.  The Alpha Betas are also closely associated with the Pi Delta Pi sorority, led by Stan's girlfriend Betty (Julia Montgomery)... whom Lewis develops a crush on.

Their persecution of the nerds continues, and when the nerds take their complaints to the Greek Council, they discover that the Alpha Betas are in charge of the council, and dismiss their complaints outright.  The nerds figure that if they can wrestle control of the council from the jocks, then they'd finally get the justice they deserve.  They manage to find fraternal organization willing to admit them: the Lambda Lambda Lambdas, a mostly black fraternity led by U.N. Jefferson (Bernie Casey). 

The pranks back and forth escalate into all-out war at the college's homecoming carnival.  Will the nerds end up on top?  Or will the jocks' reign of terror over the campus continue?  Dun-Dun-Dunnnnnnn.

I was worried that "Revenge of the Nerds" wouldn't hold up to my memories of it as a kid.  In fact, not only does it, but it almost seems like an entirely different movie.  The language is crude, and there's plenty of nudity to go around.  The movie is short, barely 90 minutes, so it never drags or outstays its welcome.  This is also somewhat to its detriment, since one or two of the subplots don't really pan out naturally.  For example, Lewis has a crush on Betty.  Betty, however, finds him repulsive until he has sex with her while she thinks he's actually Stan.  That... is kinda creepy, I'm not gonna lie.  But a few scenes later, she admits that she loves him. 

But there are plenty of hilarious hijinks going on here.  Carradine and Edwards make a couple of really ridiculous nerds, as do the rest of the cast.  Tochi gets some great lines as Takashi, who becomes obsessed with "hair pie" thanks to hanging out so much with Booger.  And Booger... Booger is hilarious, too.  On the jock side, Ogre is a riot - seemingly an unstoppable juggernaut with a mind the size of a peanut. 

So it turns out "Revenge of the Nerds" is still a pretty damn funny movie.  It has some problems, but overall the laughs are enough to overcome plot and character deficiencies.