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Film / The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is a 1969 Disney live-action comedy film directed by Robert Butler. It's the first in a trilogy of films starring Kurt Russell as Dexter Riley, a college student at Medfield College, which was seen previously in The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber.

The students of Medfield, headed by Dexter, coerce wealthy businessman A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero) into donating an old computer, which Arno had secretly used as part of an illegal gambling ring, to the school. While installing a replacement computer part during a thunderstorm, Dexter gets zapped and discovers that he's become a "human computer"; he now possesses superhuman math skills, can read and memorize the contents of an encyclopedia volume in a few minutes, and can speak any language fluently after reading a single textbook. His newfound abilities make Dexter a worldwide celebrity and Medfield's best chance to win a televised quiz tournament with a $100,000 prize.

The success of this film spawned the sequels Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). It was remade in 1995 as a Made-for-TV Movie with Kirk Cameron starring as Dexter Riley.

This movie contains the following examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: After Dexter and his friends consult with A.J. Arno about the computer, Arno briefly mispronounces Dexter's name as Lester, prompting Dexter to correct him.
  • The Alleged Car: Dean Higgins' car is a nice little powder-blue roadster… except for the fact the Dean needs a cord to keep the driver's door closed.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Dexter and his friends listening in on a conversation Dean Higgins is having in his office.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: A.J. Arno is pretty upfront about his sliminess behind closed doors.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: In the 1995 remake, Dexter's best friend was a stereotypical college-age radical who, in a parody of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, believed that President William McKinley was actually killed by his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Cool Teacher: Professor Quigley is an encouraging and intelligent mentor figure even before Dexter gets his intelligence.
  • Dean Bitterman: Dean Higgins is a pessimistic guy who doesn't like his students that much.
  • The Dragon: Chillie Walsh to Arno, although he's more of a Mook Lieutenant and advisor than a thug.
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome: Dexter absorbs all the information of the computer and becomes super-smart, and temporarily more of a jerk until his friends pay bail for him, and he eventually loses his smarts when he gets conked in the head in the film's final act.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Professor Quigley is telling Dexter to study for the test, Dexter answers that he'll remember every answer. Cut to Dexter in his car struggling to remember every answer.
  • He Knows Too Much: The drama of the third act revolves around Arno finding out Dexter has the information of the illegal activities that were stored in Arno's computer in his brain (and says them aloud uncontrollably if he hears the file's password, "Applejack") and deciding Dexter needs a nice pair of cement shoes STAT.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Annie and Pete are viewed by some as being more savvy and proactive than Dexter before and after he gets the computer brain.
  • Ignored Expert: Dexter is brought in to consult on a diamond cutting. Even with his computer brain, he gets ignored when he makes an odd suggestion, but sure enough he was right and the diamond breaks due to being cut elsewhere.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: After receiving the electric shock when replacing a part in the computer during a thunderstorm, Dexter is able to think like a computer, which gives him an advantage in just about every scientific field.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Dean Collingsgood tries to pull this off when Higgins catches him at the restaurant, which causes Collingsgood to tell Higgins that he's at the wrong place and that there's supposed to be a dinner party in his honor. Higgins sees right through him, however.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When Chillie gets him and Dexter arrested, the cops let Dexter go after seeing all of the bail money his friends raised even though they're just a bit short (with the desk clerk adding in that money himself). Later, when Pete comes to them with Dexter's theories about Arno's gambling ring, they aren't disbelieving or dismissive, but they don't act on that information until they have some additional confirmation.
  • The Rival: Dean Collingsgood to Dean Higgins, who is happy at the idea of using Dexter to beat him in a competition.
  • Trigger Phrase: Saying "Applejack" around Dexter causes him to enter a trance in which he says aloud the data within the files A.J. Arno left inside the computer: the financial records of his illegal businesses.
  • Villains Out Shopping: A Faux Affably Evil example occurs when Chili and a crony talk about murdering Dexter, an innocent college student, because He Knows Too Much. They also discuss going on a fishing trip near where they plan to hide the body once Dexter is dead.