|Directed by||Martha Coolidge|
|Produced by||Brian Grazer|
|Screenplay by||Neal Israel
|Story by||Neal Israel
|Music by||Thomas Newman, The Textones|
|Edited by||Richard Chew|
|Delphi III Productions|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||108 minutes|
|Box office||$12,952,019 (North America)|
The film is set on the campus of Pacific Tech, a technical university similar to Caltech. Chris Knight (Kilmer) is a genius in his senior year working on a chemical laser. Mitch Taylor (Jarret) is a new student on campus who is paired up with Knight to work on the laser.
The film received positive reviews from critics. It grossed $12,952,019 at the United States and Canadian box office.
A group of CIA officers watch a video presentation of a top-secret project called "Crossbow": a space shuttle mounted with a computer-guided laser weapon that is shown to incinerate a man on the ground with pinpoint accuracy. It is noted that researchers on the project have yet to generate the necessary power needs. When it becomes clear that this weapon has no wartime applications and is intended solely for illegal assassinations, one agent expresses doubt at the moral implications. It is insinuated that the agent himself is assassinated.
Professor Jerry Hathaway (Atherton) meets a new student, Mitch Taylor (Jarret), informing him that he has been admitted to Pacific Technical University and will be rooming with physics "legend" Chris Knight. It is revealed that Hathaway is the researcher contracted by the CIA to develop the laser weapon, but instead of doing the work himself, he has subcontracted the job to his students and used his funding to remodel his house. Arriving on campus, Mitch meets Chris and is disappointed to learn that Chris, while brilliant, is an irreverent slacker who spends his time pulling elaborate pranks, such as covering the dorm room floor in ice to go skating. Mitch also meets Jordan (Meyrink), a hyperkinetic female student, and the mysterious Lazlo Hollyfeld (Gries), who seems to be living in his closet. Hathaway's sycophantic graduate assistant Kent (Prescott) becomes hostile when Hathaway puts Mitch in charge of the laser project.
Under pressure to get results, Hathaway gives Chris an unrealistic timetable, which Chris dismisses. When Mitch is caught blowing off lab time to attend a pool party concocted by Chris, Hathaway berates him. The next day Mitch is mortified when a recording of his tearful phone call to his parents is played over the speakers during lunch (a prank conceived by Kent and his cronies). Humiliated, Mitch is ready to quit. Chris convinces him to stay by explaining to him how Lazlo was the top genius at Pacific Tech in the 1970s, but suffered a breakdown when he learned that his theories were being used to build weapons. Chris tells Mitch that if he does not want to "crack" like Hollyfeld, he must learn to have fun, and the first order of business is to get even with Kent, which they accomplish by disassembling his car and rebuilding it inside his dorm room. Under increasing pressure from the CIA, Hathaway berates Chris and tells him that for failing him, no matter what he does he will not graduate. Chris devotes himself to not only to solve the laser's power problem but to ace Hathaway's exam. His efforts appear to be ruined when Kent sabotages the laser, but in a fit of anger at the laser's destruction, he has an epiphany that solves the power problem. The beam of the redesigned laser has an unlimited range and produces an estimated six megawatts of power, exceeding the original requirement.
When the team celebrates its success, Lazlo points out that the high-energy laser can only be used as a weapon, and in fact that it must have been conceptualized for this purpose. Chris is devastated. Hathaway has removed from the lab both the laser and a tracking system designed to target it. Chris, Mitch, and Jordan trick Kent into revealing when the laser is going to be tested. The group tails Hathaway to a nearby Air Force base. While Chris and Mitch talk their way onto the base, Lazlo remotely cracks the laser's computer and changes its target coordinates to Hathaway's house, where the team has placed a huge tin of popcorn. When the laser hits the house, it shines through a stained-glass window and the popcorn heats and expands; the house bursts at the seams as popcorn pours out onto the lawn. Meanwhile, the laser overheats and destroys itself. The group (now joined by the Dean of the college and the local Congressman) watch as kids play in the popcorn. Hathaway returns home and witnesses the damage up close.
- Val Kilmer as Chris Knight
- Gabriel Jarret as Mitch Taylor
- Michelle Meyrink as Jordan Cochran
- Mark Kamiyama as "Ick" Ikagami
- William Atherton as Prof. Jerry Hathaway
- Jon Gries as Lazlo Hollyfeld
- Robert Prescott as Kent
- Ed Lauter as David Decker
- Patti D'Arbanville as Sherry Nugill
- Stacy Peralta as shuttle pilot
- Beau Billingslea as George
- Joanne Baron as Mrs. Taylor
- Sandy Martin as Mrs. Meredith
- Dean Devlin as Milton
- Yuji Okumoto as Fenton
- Deborah Foreman as Susan Decker
To prepare for Real Genius, Martha Coolidge spent months researching laser technology and the policies of the CIA, and interviewed dozens of students at Caltech. The screenplay was extensively rewritten, first by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, later by Coolidge and Peter Torokvei.
Producer Brian Grazer remembers that when Val Kilmer came in to audition for the role of Chris Knight, he brought candy bars and performed tricks. Kilmer remembered it differently. "The character wasn't polite, so when I shook Grazer's hand and he said, 'Hi, I'm the producer,' I said, 'I'm sorry. You look like you're 12 years old. I like to work with men.'"
To achieve the house filled with popcorn for the film's climax, the production team popped popcorn continuously for three months. The popcorn was treated with fire retardant so it would not combust and covered so that it would not be eaten by birds and possibly poison them. The popcorn was then shipped to a subdivision under construction in Canyon Country, northwest of Los Angeles, and placed in the house.
To promote the film, the studio held what it billed as "the world's first computer press conference" with Coolidge and Grazer answering journalists' questions via computer terminals and relayed over the CompuServe computer network.
The dorm in the film is based on Dabney House at Caltech, and Caltech students played extras in the film.
- "You Took Advantage of Me" performed by Carmen McRae
- "The Tuff Do What?" performed by Tonio K
- "Summertime Girls" performed by Y&T
- "The Pleasure Seekers" performed by The System
- "The Walls Came Down" performed by The Call
- "I'm Falling" performed by The Comsat Angels
- "One Night Love Affair" performed by Bryan Adams
- "All She Wants to Do Is Dance", performed by Don Henley
- "Number One" performed by Chaz Jankel
- "You're the Only Love" performed by Paul Hyde and the Payolas
- "Standing In The Line" performed by The Textones, written by Carla Olson
- "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" performed by Tears for Fears
Real Genius was released on August 9, 1985 in 990 theaters grossing $2.5 million in its first weekend. It went on to make $12,952,019 in North America.
Real Genius received mixed to positive reviews and has a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews. In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "the film is best when it takes [the students] seriously, though it does so only intermittently". David Ansen wrote in his review for Newsweek magazine, "When it's good, the dormitory high jinks feel like the genuine release of teen-age tensions and cruelty. Too bad the story isn't as smart as the kids in it". In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote, "Many of the scenes, already badly written, fail to fulfill their screwball potential... But despite its enthusiastic young cast and its many good intentions, it doesn't quite succeed. I guess there's a leak in the think tank". Chicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half stars out of four, saying that it "contains many pleasures, but one of the best is its conviction that the American campus contains life as we know it". In his review for the Globe and Mail, Salem Alaton wrote, "Producer Brian Grazer craved a feel-good picture, and she [Martha Coolidge] turned in the summer's best, and she didn't cheat to do it. There's heart in the kookiness. Real Genius has real people, real comedy and real fun". Time magazine's Richard Schickel praised the film for being "a smart, no-nonsense movie that may actually teach its prime audience a valuable lesson: the best retort to an intolerable situation is not necessarily a food fight. Better results, and more fun, come from rubbing a few brains briskly together".
In the MythBusters episode, "Car vs. Rain", first broadcast on June 17, 2009, the MythBusters team tried to determine whether the final scene in the film, the destruction of Dr. Hathaway's house with laser-popped popcorn, is actually possible. First they used a ten-watt laser to pop a single kernel wrapped in aluminum foil, showing that popping corn is possible with a laser, then they tested a scaled-down model of a house. The popcorn was popped through induction heating because a sufficiently large laser was not available. The result was that the popcorn was unable to expand sufficiently to break glass, much less break open a door or move the house off its foundation. Instead, it ceased to expand and then simply charred.
It was also specifically stated in the program that a five-megawatt laser still did not exist, even in military applications, and that the largest military laser they knew of was 100 kilowatts.
In January, 2011, it was further demonstrated on video in a home setting that a kernel of corn directly exposed to laser light from accessible consumer level lasers could be popped as reported by TechCrunch.
The solid xenon-halogen laser proposed and built by Chris in the latter half of the film, though in the realm of science fiction, was based on theory of the time. Real Genius through consultant Martin A. Gundersen (who played the Math Professor) was later given a citation in an academic publication which detailed the scientific basis behind the laser.
- Attanasio, Paul (August 7, 1985). "The Road to Hollywood: Director Martha Coolidge's Long Trek to Real Genius". Washington Post.
- Attanasio, Paul (August 7, 1985). "Fun With the Whiz Kids". Washington Post.
- Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (June 30, 1995). "Cool Hero: Val Kilmer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
- Ryan, Kyle (April 21, 2010). "Random Roles: William Atherton". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
- Deans, Laurie (August 2, 1985). "Howard, Keaton hope to make a splash". Globe and Mail.
- "References to Caltech in _Real Genius". Alumnus.caltech.edu. 2013-03-26. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- "Real Genius". Box Office Mojo (Internet Movie Database). Retrieved March 30, 2009.
- "Real Genius (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
- Maslin, Janet (August 7, 1985). "Real Genius". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
- Ansen, David (August 26, 1985). "Hollywood's Silly Season". Newsweek.
- Kempley, Rita (August 9, 1985). "Real Genius Reels, Falls". Washington Post.
- Ebert, Roger (August 7, 1985). "Real Genius". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
- Alaton, Salem (August 12, 1985). "This time the teen antics are funny Real Genius is a real gem". Globe and Mail.
- Schickel, Richard (August 12, 1985). "Guess Who Flunked the IQ Test?". Time. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
- "Car vs. Rain". MythBusters. Season 2009. Episode 11. June 17, 2009. Discovery Channel. http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/episode/episode-tab-02.html. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
- Stevenson, Scott, Arctic Lasers Pop Popcorn - Pocket Blue Lasers Popping Popcorn
- Burns, Matt (Jan 14, 2011), Popping Popcorn With Lasers Is Awesome And Healthy
- Fajardo, Mario E.; Apkarian, V. A. (1987-02-13), "Simulated Radiative Dissociation and Gain Measurements of Xe2Cl in Solid Xenon" (PDF), Chemical Physics Letters (chem.ps.uci.edu) 134: 51 — Citation number 7 on p. 54 in the paper (on p. 4 in PDF).
- 1989 Tad Stones Interview published in "Furtherance", Issue 3, Winter 1991
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Real Genius|
- Real Genius at the Internet Movie Database
- Real Genius at AllMovie
- Real Genius at Rotten Tomatoes
- Real Genius at Box Office Mojo