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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 7/9/02



Real Genius
1985 (2002) - Columbia TriStar

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Real Genius

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C/F

Specs and Features

108 min, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1) and full frame (1.33:1), 16x9 enhanced, dual-sided, single layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers for Jumanji and Hook, film-themed menus, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"In the immortal words of Socrates: "I drank what?"

Real Genius is one of the last great teen comedies. Modern versions of the art form seem to rely on gross-out jokes and sexual humor to get their point across, but Real Genius belongs to the old-school tradition of Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where the plot was on an equal footing with the jokes. Not only that, but it's full of some great 80s music. The film just screams for a special edition. Unfortunately, Columbia only saw fit to give this movie the barest of bones DVDs, with arguably the ugliest, worst cover art of all time. Do they really think that a badly Photoshopped headshot of Val Kilmer looking like a bucktoothed dork with lightening bolts around him will sell more units than the original poster art (which also featured Val Kilmer)?

The film is presented on DVD with an anamorphic transfer, in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Being fairly familiar with the pan and scan version (the only previous widescreen release was on a low run, rot-prone laserdisc), I have to say that most of the extra frame is wasted. In only a few shots are there really any antics or other fun stuff happening that really make a difference, and mostly it's just people standing there. Still, I'm glad to have the widescreen here. Overall, the video looks pretty good for a low budget 80's film. The image quality is a tad soft, and there is some minor ringing against the flat colored hallways and backgrounds, but its nothing too major.

I don't know if the audio is presented in the original mix, but I found the dialogue to be mixed way too low, and the musical interludes way too high. By the time you pump your volume to hear the dialogue, you'll be deafened when the music kicks in. If the original sound designer would allow, I would have really liked to see a re-EQ done on the film just to bring things more into balance. Otherwise, the sound is very clear compared to the old VHS releases. I found myself catching plenty of snatches of background dialogue I had always missed before. The sound is listed as 2.0 Surround, but the only time the movie really got itself out of my center channel was when the music kicked in. While unbalanced, I feel justified in the "C" rating because of the improvements in sound resolution.

As for extras, there are zero, zip, nada, NONE! Only trailers for 2 totally unrelated films, Jumanji and Hook. Where is this film's original trailer? The one that contained the clip of the deleted "Chris on the balloon chair" scene? How about some commentary? Or a few deleted scenes? ANYTHING? Given that Martha Coolidge is the first female president of the Director's Guild of America, you'd figure that she'd want her films done justice on DVD. Maybe she doesn't care, maybe she's too busy with her union duties, or they flat out didn't tell her that Real Genius was coming out (as happened with Michael Moore and Canadian Bacon). Hopefully, Ms. Coolidge will someday go to Columbia and, disc sales willing, convince them to do a proper special edition.

I can't recommend this film to you on the overwhelming quality of the DVD - it's just OK, it's passable. And if you put the chapter insert (with the original poster art) over that eyesore cover, it looks decent on a shelf. If you love this movie, you probably already have it. If you love a good geek comedy, or if you love 80s movies, this DVD is worth having. Otherwise, I'd say save yourself the outrageous $24.95 sticker price and rent it, or grab something else.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com




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