Revenge of the Nerds review by Mike Long

The term "comedy classic" is one which I feel is bandied about far too often. Humor is different for each generation, so one person's comedy classic is another person's puzzling film. But, it can be surmised that for each generation, there are those films which were funny when they debuted and maintain their comedic power over the years. For those like me who came of age in the early 80s, Revenge of the Nerds is one such film. It may not be the greatest movie ever, but it's laughs are enduring.

As Revenge of the Nerds opens, we meet Louis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowell (Anthony Edwards). Both are nerds -- that is, they have glasses, dress funny, and they are more interested in computers than anything else. (Although, Louis doesn't realize that he's a nerd.) The pair are incoming freshmen at Adam's College. Upon their arrival on campus, they are convinced that college will be great.

Of course, their experience gets off to a shaky start, as Louis, Gilbert, and several other young men are ejected from their dorm when the members of Alpha Beta fraternity, whose house has burned down, take over the freshmen housing. The now homeless boys are forced to live in the gym. This group of outcasts, which includes Booger (Cutis Armstrong), Takashi (Brian Tochi), Wormser (Andrew Cassese), Lamar (Larry B. Scott), and Poindexter (Timothy Busfield), decide to organize a fraternity so that they will have a place to live. So, the industrious young men find a house and become probationary members of Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity. This doesn't sit well with the Alpha Betas, who are led by jocks Stan Gable (Ted McGinley) and "Ogre" (Donald Gibb), and Stan's girlfriend, Betty (Julia Montgomery). Gable and his co-horts play pranks on the nerds, but Louis, Gilbert and their friend don't back down. The feuding culminates at the Greek Games, whose winner will control the Greek Council.

As with many great comedies, Revenge of the Nerds exists in two worlds. The film's main story is fairly simple, straightforward, and in some way, hackneyed. The specific idea of nerds -- these boys (and girls) who just don't fit in -- may have been novel at the time, but it mirrors many other movies where underdogs must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The movie takes a "fish out of water" story, peppers it with some cruel villains, and then finishes it off with a plotline straight out of a sports film where the weak battle the strong. Seen that way, the film is hardly remarkable.

This story is only the jumping off point for Revenge of the Nerds. The plot (as it were) is crammed with bizarre characters and some shocking jokes which give the movie life. The main "nerds" in the film are Louis and Gilbert, and they fit the more traditional idea of the "glasses and computer" nerd. But, it's those around them which give the movie color. Long after seeing the film, viewers remember Lamar Latrell, the cartoonishly flamboyant member of the group, or Wormser, the child prodigy who is exposed to very mature things. But, for me, it's Booger, the foul-mouthed, nose-picking cretin who steals the show. Booger isn't a nerd in the traditional sense, but no other group would have him and he has the best lines in the film. These lines, most of which can't be repeated here, have become oft-qouted classics, and most walk the fine line between clever and vulgar. And of course, who can forget the musical finale to the film.

Looking back at Revenge of the Nerds, the humor still works over 20 years later. However, something which is quite shocking is how racist the film is. The treatment of Asians and Blacks is cruel at times, and in our PC environment, some of the moments in the film are quite surprising.

Revenge of the Nerds have often been compared to Animal House. While John Landis' seminal 70s film is a better movie overall, that comparison is apt. Both movies show how the weird can overcome the beautiful people at college and both contain memorable characters. And while Animal House looked back at the 50s, Revenge of the Nerds was very much a film of its day, as it gave us a view at the modern world where people like Bill Gates can command so much power. Today, as it was then, nerds rule.

Revenge of the Nerds finds "hair pie" on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been released in a new Special Edition DVD which has been deemed the "Panty Raid Edition". Classy. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 1.85:1. Given the film's age (and as it turn's out, low-budget nature), the transfer looks OK. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear. Grain is kept to a minimum and there are no overt defects from the source material. The colors, most notably the reds and greens, look fine. However, the transfer looks very flat. The picture lacks detail at times, and the only way to put this is that it simply doesn't look crisp. The image is slightly dark at times and shows some obvious artifacting. The DVD features both a Dolby Digital stereo and mono soundtrack. Both tracks sound fine, as the dialogue is clear and audible, but the stereo effects on the stereo track aren't all that great, so either track will do.

This new Special Edition contains several extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring director Jeff Kanew, and actors Timothy Busfield, Robert Carradine, and Curtis Armstrong, This is an odd commentary as Kanew was clearly recorded separately from the actors and his comments are edited in. The problem is that the interplay between Busfield, Carradine, and Armstrong is quite entertaining, while Kanew's comments, which are informative, are very dry. "I'm a Nerd and I'm Pretty Proud of It" is an ironically titled 39-minute featurette, in which most everyone involved with the film admits that they didn't want to do it. Actually, this is a very good segment, as the interviewees, Kanew, Busfield, Carradine, Armstrong, along with Larry B. Scott, Ted McGinley, Julia Montgomery, Andrew Cassese, speak very frankly about their experiences on the movie. We learn that there was a lot of improvisation on the film and that it wasn't the success which it could have been. The DVD contains 6 DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. Three of these scenes deal with a subplot in which the nerds attend a Lambda Lambda Lamdba convention. The oddest extra is the never-aired "Revenge of the Nerds Television Pilot" (24 minutes). I could only stomach a few minutes of this, so I know why it wasn't picked up. Cousin Oliver? Really? The last extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film. It should be noted that this DVD contains the version of Revenge of the Nerds in which a brief scene of Louis holding a "For Rent" sign was cut because the sign featured a live phone number.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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