Real Genius is a comedy/science fiction film produced in 1985, starring Val Kilmer, Gabriel Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, and William Atherton.The movie starts out about Mitch, a 15 year old boy who designs a cutting edge laser for his high school science fair. This gains him the attention of professor and educational TV show (think Cosmos with Carl Sagan) host Jerry Hathaway, who offers to enter the wunderkind at Pacific Tech as an accelerated student. There, Mitch takes classes taught by tape recorder*
As a funny aside, this started the urban legend about students showing up to class taught by recorder, dropping off tape recorders, and then leaving again
and meets the irreverent Chris Knight; who tries to teach the younger Mitch that he can't take everything in life so seriously, particularly when Mitch ends up as the butt of this school's Jerk Jock Kent. (Though as this is an all science and engineering school the Jerk Jock types are all other geniuses themselves.)As it turns out, Chris and Kent are competing for the same post-graduate position under Hathaway, and while Chris' lighthearted quasi-slacker attitude rankles the professor, Kent shamelessly toadies up and finally seems to triumph over the heroes when he sabotages Chris and Mitch's laser project work.The final straw comes when Chris and Mitch discover that Hathaway has secretly contracted with the CIA to turn their laser into a weapon and take all the credit. Chris doesn't approve, and recruits the genius kids of the university to help him take revenge on both the greedy Hathaway and Kent during the laser's first live-fire exercise.
After speaking with them at the science fair, Dr. Hathaway asks them if, by any chance, Mitch is adopted.
Mitch has to assure Jordan that the reason he won't take her to meet them is because he's ashamed of them, not of her.
Applied Phlebotinum: The laser technology in general is real, but Chris' breakthrough on the five megawatt laser is pure Technobabble. Some of the college pranks, like Ick's "ice", toe the line because nobody bothers to explain exactly what it is.
Awesome, but Impractical: Chris uses liquid nitrogen to freeze ice which he then cuts coin slugs from with a filament knife just to avoid paying for vending machines. Even putting aside the fact that he doesn't have to pay for the gas itself if he uses university resources, he still has to freeze it into a shape that fits into the coin slot and registers as a coin.
Big Blackout: Chris Knight causes one when he turns on his laser beam pathway for the "Tanning Invitational" It's not known how far spread the blackout is; the audience only sees the Pacific Tech campus.
Chris Knight: "Relax. That's just the fuses at the substation, they'll have it back on in a minute. Maybe I shouldn't have shorted across the building transformer. But more important: did we get a charge?"
Coming of Age Story: A major theme of the film — Mitch is the primary example, but Chris, Jordan, and Lazlo get to do some growing up by the end.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: Kent winds up in a house being filled to the breaking point with laser-popped popcorn...and has an absolute blast. In fact it seems to give him a better disposition in the end.
Fictional Counterpart: Pacific Tech for Caltech. What's really cool about it is that at first, Caltech was eager to help make the movie... at least until they learned it was critical of the Strategic Defense Initiative in general and Edward Teller in particular; as Caltech operates and manages NASA's neighboring Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they couldn't afford to critique the man, let alone be involved in a movie which cast William Atherton as his counterpart. But it all turned out perfectly anyway, as a Caltech alumni came out of the woodwork to provide assistance - and load the film with Easter Eggs.
Foreshadowing: At the beginning of the movie, Kent tells Mitch that orders go "...from God, to Jerry, to me." Later on, "Jesus" talks directly to Kent, changing the middleman as it were.
Hard Work Montage: Several, including Mitch settling in at the college and Mitch and Chris working on the laser.
Heroic BSOD: Chris has one once he learns the laser's true purpose.
Highly Visible Password: Lazlo's attempts to hack into the military computer are masked while typing, but then subsequently displayed anyways. PASSWORD: ###### (trying "AAAAAD"). This would likely be normal behavior for a brute-force script, as it would produce such comments as local notifications. However, it was shown that Lazlo was typing the entries by hand.
Hollywood Nerd: Chris, Mitch, Jordan, Ick... practically the entire student cast.
Humiliation Conga: At the end, for Hathaway. His project is ruined and likely going to be audited, which will uncover his skimming off the top to pay for renovations on his home. Said house has been destroyed... by popcorn, which he hates. And finally the dog that he can't stand shows up to commiserate.
I Drank What?: The Trope Namer, though the actual example isn't related; Chris talks Mitch into tasting something, and when Mitch asks what it is, Chris says, "I don't know, I found it in one of the labs," then, after a lot of spitting, lets on he was joking; it's just yogurt. The actual Trope Namer comes from something Chris says later in the movie "I was thinking of the immortal last words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'"
Jordan: I never sleep, I don't know why. I had a roommate and I drove her nuts, I mean really nuts, they had to take her away in an ambulance and everything. But she's okay now, but she had to transfer to an easier school, but I don't know if that had anything to do with being my fault. But listen, if you ever need to talk or you need help studying just let me know, 'cause I'm just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, okay?
Jail Bait Wait: Sherry Nugil attempts to seduce Mitch upon his sixteenth birthday. Her advances repulse him, however, because he's much more interested in Jordan.
Jerk Ass: Kent, Dr. Hathaway, Chris (though the latter restricts these tendencies to the uncool characters). Decker, who casually orders one of his colleagues murdered at the beginning of the film, and is implied he might do the same to Hathaway if he doesn't produce a working laser.
Jerk Jock: Kent is the closest you'll find at a school full of nerds.
Kick the Dog: Kent records Mitch's teary phone conversation with his parents and later plays it over the cafeteria loudspeakers to humiliate Mitch.
Kids Are Cruel: "They stuffed me into a mailbox — did I ever tell you that?"
Kill Sat: The film opens with a CIA mockup presentation of a laser beam used to conduct precise orbital assassinations. Hathaway has the contract to build the genuine article.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Jordan, who bursts in on Mitch while he's in the bathroom and all but glomps him — entirely innocently; she wants to give him a sweater she knitted for him overnight. Part of herCharacter Development occurs when Mitch starts paying serious attention to her; she calms down and develops a personality other than "hyperactive girl".
Positive Discrimination: The only member of the shadowy government agency that objects to the assassination laser plan is also the sole black guy. And then they "Liberate" him. Or is that "Liquidate"?
Running Gag: Mitch's classmates for one lecture keep disappearing, leaving recording devices in the room so they can skip class. Eventually Mitch is the only one remaining, as even the instructor has ditched class and left a tape playing in his stead.
Satellite Love Interest: Sherry Nugil is a variation. Out of the three scenes total that she appears in, two of them are spent as a willing love interest for a main character.
The plot would be rather different if the attempt to hack the laser's targeting computer didn't require Chris and Mitch to actually go to the site and switch out its (very large) chips. Also, Lazlo's elaborate setup so he can fill out contest entry cards looks a bit silly now that you can go down and buy a fast, cheap printer at almost any store.
TV Genius: Averted, most of the kids, minus some hyperactivity disorders, speak rather like normal humans. Notable in the ice scene when Ick says that the ice is going to go from solid to gas and doesn't use the actual word for this process, sublimation.
Underdressed for the Occasion: At a job interview, no less. This is deliberate on Chris' part, however; he is trying his hardest not to be taken seriously, at least until Hathaway threatens to throw him out.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Pacific Tech seems to run on this, but it's most egregious in one scene when a student walks down the hall, right past Chris and co. wearing gas masks while gassing Kent's room, and merely says "hi."
Vanilla Edition: The sole DVD release doesn't have any deleted scenes, cast/crew commentary, or trailers and/or TV spots for the movie itself. But it does have trailers for Hook and Jumanji! Yay!
The Voice: Invoked. Jordan, Chris, Ick and Mitch stick a transmitter in Kent's braces to make him think God is talking to him.
Chris: When I was three years old, I balanced my father's checkbook. They sent me to school and fired their accountant. My father was so intimidated, he stopped speaking to me. My teachers disliked me because I was smarter than they were. My classmates hated me because I broke the bell curve. Sound familiar? My mother dressed me in white shirts, hush puppies and a briefcase, guaranteeing that no girl would ever talk to me.