Forgotten Films 1984 Blogathon Review: Revenge of the Nerds (1984…unsurprisingly)

Synopsis: At a big campus, a group of bullied outcasts and misfits resolve to fight back for their peace and self respect.

My Take

revenge-of-the-nerds-originalAs part of the 1984 movie blogathon so graciously arranged by Todd Liebernow at Forgotten Films I agreed to review classic college comedy Revenge of the Nerds. A movie that contained tiny roles for two actors who would go onto become revered as some of the most talented of their generation. And a number that would go on to have significant parts in The West Wing, in some ways the Thinking Man’s Revenge of the Nerds…

I do love an old movie, and as someone born in the same year as the release of Revenge… I believe I am able to refer to it as such. And as with reviewing any classic movie it is important to place it in it’s social context. Here, that social context is bad electronica, fixing-it-up montages and behaviour that is outright vouyerism. That aside though Revenge of the Nerds was, at a time before the rise of Geek Power (our extensive thoughts on which can be found here) a call to arms for all those marginalised through a love of binary and pocket protectors. Ironically the narrative is not the stuff of rocket science, as two loveable nerds Lewis (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) embark on college life. Their naive dreams of meeting girls and partying are quickly dashed when the college Jocks take umbridge with their wanting to intergrate and upset the delicate campus eco system. Sick and tired of being the whipping boys they decide to start a fraternity of their own, showing up the Jocks the meantime. Not least the Arian golden boy Quarteback Stan (Ted McGinley).

Let’s not be too kind; this is a film that is quintessentially of it’s time. It is 80’s to the core, not least for the phenomenally bad soundtrack that was an early original score for Thomas Newman who went on to do some incredible work on American Beauty, WALL.E and THAT opening title music for Six Feet Under. Evidently someone told him early on in his career that the key to a good score were very literal lyrics, describing everything playing out on screen. Oh and using the word spaz which wasn’t yet politically incorrect… There is no denying this is a joyfully iconic movie though, if it does play the wrong side of “most of these guys are actually committing some form of serious sexual offence” at times. Not least the scene in which they all sit around eating cheerios and leering at the hidden cameras set up to spy on the girls with the intention of “seeing bush”. And then the glee when they finally see bush. Gross.

There was a lot of talk in the mid to late 00’s about a Revenge of the Nerds reboot with McG (oh dear God) attached with former hottest star on Earth for 10 minutes Adam Brody. Watching the original conceit in 2014 though it made me realise it would never work. Nerds are too revered now. The idea that they would one day rule the World has now come to fruition. The tables have turned. Jocks are the new Nerds. Blue Mountain State was very succesful in creating comedy from this very role reversal and The Big Bang Theory is the most commercially obvious example of this fact.

In the grand scheme of the goldmine that was 1984 there is a danger of holding Revenge of the Nerds in a reverance it doesn’t deserve. Placed in context it is nothing more than an average National Lampoon comedy and certainly not a patch on Animal House. That said, enjoyed as a nostalgic trip into a time fashion and music forgot until 2 years ago in Silverlake and Brooklyn, it is fine. And certainly worth the watch for some future West Wing Alumin in Timothy Busfield, John Goodman, Ted McGinley and James Cromwell.

Verdict: 6/10


Cast: Anthony Edwards, Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, John Goodman, Ted McGinley and James Cromwell

7 replies »

  1. It has been FOREVER since I’ve seen this film. I suspect you’re right – it may be revered more for nostalgia than for movie-making prowess, but you’ve got me jonesing to see it again. Great review!

    • Thanks for the comment! It is certainly of it’s time and I see now why a reboot has stalled so much as I don’t think culturally it is as relevant anymore. Still funny though, if more at it than with it

  2. Great review! I enjoyed this movie when I was younger but as an adult I realize it’s terribly problematic. That scene with Lewis and Betty in the Moon Room is another sexual assault moment in the movie. The final scene where Gilbert gives his nerd speech is preceded by the black Tri-Lams intimidating the Alpha Betas with nothing but their blackness. This is one of the failings of movies from this time because it perpetuates the idea that black men are dangerous and should be feared.

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