Ok, pop quiz: Do you know who Martha Coolidge is?
Neither did I. And I’ve seen her best movie about a billion times. The Coolidge directed Val Kilmer vehicle to which I am referring is called Real Genius which is an apt title. This movie is really genius.
Our friend, Mr Kilmer, leads a cast of even more people you’ve never heard of through the trials and tribulations of our protagonist, Mitch Taylor. Gabriel Jarret is the thespian who gave us the whiny Mitch, a freshman genius at the fictitious Pacific Tech whom you surely would have beat the crap out of as a matter of course were you to have been on the fictitious football team of the fictitious Pacific Tech (which, in case you care, is purportedly based on the not-so-fictitious Caltech).
Val Kilmer turns out to be incredibly charming the whole time, sporting cutesy quips and a devil-may-care Laissez-faire approach to his fictitious genius. A genius so pure and altruistic that Val is brought to his knees by the subterfuge of his favorite professor who secretly leases the laser they’ve been working on to the Air Force for the sole purpose of vaporizing Uncle Sam’s enemies from space.
But who cares?
In my mind, the whole point of this movie was to provide a lexicon of smug responses and one-liners for the secret language Keith Link and I use to communicate with each other. Of particular example is the idea of a “moral imperative” which is how Chris categorized the necessity of Mitch getting back at Kent, the geeky antagonist, which he did by disassembling and then reassembling Kent’s vintage Citroen in his dorm room. The fact that I missed the opportunity to do that to someone in college is one of the great regrets of my life.
Anyway, somewhere near the fourth reel, Chris, Mitch and the gang sneak aboard the B1 bomber being used to test the death laser, do some stuff with microchips that looked totally convincing when I was 15 but is now laughable, and redirect the laser to heat up a giant tub of popcorn that rips the nasty professor’s house to shreds. No, I’m not making that up.
I think it’s worth noting that 24 years after the box office debut of Real Genius, Mythbusters dedicated an episode to finding out if you could really use a laser to super heat a house full of popcorn kernels and thus tear the domicile asunder. Allow me to quote Wikipedia: “The result was that the popcorn was unable to expand sufficiently to break glass, much less break open a door or move the house off its foundation. Instead, it ceased to expand and then simply charred.”
Yep, that about says it all.