December 27, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds

*** out of ****

Everyone has been called a nerd, a dork, a spaz, or a geek at some point in his or her life. I think this particular aspect is what makes "Revenge of the Nerds" so great among 80s comedies―its universality, which still rings true today even though the 80s have saturated its content. Plus, it is pretty hilarious.

The content itself is amusing, for certain―two buddies from high school (Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards) go off to college and find themselves constantly terrorized by the nerd-hating jocks, all of whom are Alpha Betas. (They would be ― get it? "Alpha males.") When the Alphas burn down their house, the freshmen nerds are ousted to the gymnasium until they can find somewhere to live. When a select group of nerds, including our heroes, are left out (though pranked into rushing Alpha Beta), they bond together to create a new chapter of Lambda Lambda Lambda, a consistently African-American fraternity. In order to find respect on campus, the nerds―I mean, tri-Lambs―must gain the respect of their superiors, outwit the Alphas and their sister sorority the Pis, and win the climactic Homecoming Carnival, which would solidify their position as new leaders of the Greek Council.

The performances are not necessarily going to nab any Oscars, but the characters are certainly well-constructed and identifiable in viewers' experiences. Even if they are a bit stereotyped, they are all still enjoyable. (Meanwhile, making a hilarious appearance, and likely my favorite, is former football player Bernie Casey as U.N. Jefferson, the head of the tri-Lambs' national chapter.)

Probably one of the best aspects of the film is its straightforwardness, omitting unnecessary details and carrying viewers from the beginning when Gilbert and Lewis move off to college all the way to the important events that affect them until Homecoming. The narrative never delays (yay, screenwriting), and this consistency helps the film remain enjoyable for viewers from start to finish.

I love the film's score and soundtrack, as well. The songs, notably including "Burning Down the House" and "Thriller," are 80s fun, while the early Thomas Newman score will leave its impression on viewers' minds for hours afterward. (Test it: How long will it take to remove Poindexter's solo from the Homecoming Carnival from your head?)

All in all, "Revenge of the Nerds" is likely to cause a lot of laughs with funny, stereotyped performances and occasional (by modern standards of political correctness) offcolor humor, although some of the raunchiness and language might cause you to hide the kiddies. While groupable among many other 80s comedies, such as "Porky's" and all of those John Hughes films, and kind of dated, "Revenge of the Nerds," again, stands out with its universality. I am a nerd. You are a nerd. Everyone is a nerd. And we are here to stay. (We will just forget sequels II, III, and IV, for the love of God.)

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