Film Review: Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Release Date: July 20th, 1984 (limited)
Directed by: Jeff Kanew
Written by: Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai, Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Ted McGinley, Bernie Casey, Timothy Busfield, Andrew Cassese, Curtis Armstrong, Larry B. Scott, Brian Tochi, Julie Montgomery, Michelle Meyrink, Donald Gibb, James Cromwell, John Goodman, David Wohl

Interscope Communications, 20th Century Fox, 90 Minutes

Review:

“You know, when you were a baby in your crib, your father looked down at you, he had but one hope – ‘Someday, my son will grow to be a man.’ Well look at you now; you just got your asses whipped, by a bunch of goddamn nerds. Nerds! Well, if I was you, I’d do something about it. I would get up and redeem myself in the eyes of my father, my Maker, and my coach!” – Coach Harris

I probably haven’t watched this in ten years and I guess when I was a kid in the ’80s, this was a lot of laughs. It’s still got some funny moments but I’m not as nostalgic about it as I thought I would be. I know that some people consider this a classic ’80s comedy and while I guess it was popular enough and has sustained some of the popularity over the decades since its release, as they tease a remake every few years, it just doesn’t feel like a classic in the same way that GhostbustersPolice AcademyFast Times at Ridgemont High or even Real Genius does.

It is also a teen sex comedy, which were all the rage back then. This one is kind of light on the sex but you do get some solid nudity and sexual tomfoolery. However, some of it seems really weird when you watch it now but I’ll explain that in a minute.

The story is about these nerds that go to college and soon discover that they are nerds because somehow this never came up in their lives before. Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that these 18 year-old young men weren’t made fun of before they arrived at college, especially with how society in this film responds to them. Everyone hates nerds with extreme passion. Not just the jocks, mind you, but everyone.

So the jocks take the nerds dorms after they burn down their own frat house. The nerds try to make do with the situation but everyone rejects them and not just college kids but absolutely every single person they turn to. Even the fraternity they become a member of doesn’t want them and they only get their foot in the door due to a loophole in the fraternity’s own rule book.

Eventually the nerds win everyone over (except the jocks) but the extreme hatred of nerds is so outlandish and ridiculous that even though this is an over the top oddball comedy, none of this is remotely believable.

But the gags and the characters are still good and that’s what makes the film work. I love the ensemble and some of these characters are still great, three decades later. Lewis and Gilbert, the two main nerds are pretty boring but the supporting characters are lovable and fantastic.

Booger, played by the underappreciated Curtis Armstrong, is a rude and crude bastard but he’s hilarious. Timothy Busfield’s Poindexter is a one note character but he constantly hurts himself and screams like a nitwit. Larry B. Scott’s Lamar is a flamboyantly gay nerd and probably the first outlandish gay character I ever saw in a movie. I love Lamar and his friendship with the young Wormser is great, especially the bits where they do aerobics and dance together.

The real show stealers in this are the two main villains, actually. The main jock is played by Ted McGinley and it is the best role he’s done other than playing Jefferson D’Arcy on Married… with Children. You also have John Goodman as the drill sergeant like coach of the jocks. But I also have to point out how much I like Donald Gibb in this, as he plays the jocks’ muscle, a beefy bonehead named Ogre.

Now watching this thirty-plus years later, some parts of this movie are really fucked up. The nerds are actually terrible people and frankly, I kind of wanted the jocks to bash their heads in, even though they were shitheads too.

You see, the nerds invade the girls’ dorm and setup cameras everywhere in an effort to spy on them in their most private moments. This is played up for comedy, as I guess this sort of behavior was okay in the ’80s. Louis even hides in the shower of a girl to surprise her when she’s naked. Seriously, if some dude in a black hoodie was hiding in a girl’s shower in 2018, he’d probably get shot. Well, not on 2018 campuses where people hate guns and need safe spaces. Louis then ups his creep factor when he disguises himself as the girl’s boyfriend and has sex with her. M’kay… is this not rape? But the girl responds by falling in love with him. She probably won’t even care that Louis and his nerd buddies were watching her sleep in her panties for weeks.

Now I’m not really in an uproar about these things because this is a dumb ’80s teen sex comedy but watching those scenes is sort of cringy in 2018. But again, this is supposed to be a funny, stupid movie that plays best when you’re stoned on the couch with your friends spilling cheap beer on room temperature pizza that’s been sitting out for three days since your weekly Atari tournament.

Anyway, this is still a goofy movie that’s good at killing 90 minutes of your time. I don’t like this as much as Weird Science but hey, it’s got more tits in it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise but the sequels after that get pretty terrible.

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