Underdog comedies are nothing new to cinema, but Jeff Kanew’s Revenge of the Nerds, despite a pedestrian script, lackluster direction, and actors too old for their roles, has an underlying sweetness amid its predictably wacky and semi-raunchy exterior that made it in 1984 and continue to make it now endearing. Its heart is certainly in the right place even if the journey toward finding it is such an expected and unexceptional one.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 05/06/2014
Our two leading nerds are Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowell (Anthony Edwards) who arrive on the campus of Adams College ready to become college men, but they are met by a cruel barrage of taunts, practical jokes, and bullying delivered by the campus’s resident jocks, all members of the Alpha Beta fraternity. Quickly drawn to other males who are likewise outcasts for an assortment of reasons (being ethnic, gay, young, or gross), our two heroes take the snears for clearly half of the film before they decide to stand up for themselves.
The Production Rating: 3/5
With tighter writing and more inspired jokes, the premise could really have taken off, but the script by Steve Zacharias and Jeff Buhai takes easier, more highly predictable paths of insult humor and demeaning gross-out scenes in trying to score laughs. We are supposed to warm to the nerd protagonists, but the two screenwriters take every opportunity to make fun of the misfits causing us to laugh at them rather than with them rather than showing us the more human and sensitive side of their beings.
What is a nerd anyway? The film takes the stance that nerds are those undesirables who because of their plain looks, an overabundance of brains (though we never see any of these college students attending classes), a lack of money, a problem with weight, or unimpressive social position simply don’t fit into the mainstream of campus society. If that’s true, then several of the guys in the “cool” Alpha Beta frat certainly qualify for Nerd of the Year prizes. One has a fond habit of spewing beer on people. Another is a champion belcher. A sexual sadist (Ted McGinley) is the leader of the “in” group, and the school’s football coach (John Goodman) encourages their boorish behavior and rules the school above all other officials. Obviously the filmmakers want to have this both ways: attach humanity to what are essentially cartoonish characters in the film, but it’s sometimes hard to forgive and forget their lapses. And it would have been nice if the nerds in trying to earn their right to become a Lambda Lambda Lambda chapter of the national fraternity would have shown their worth by doing good things for their school or creating conveniences that the college would have recognized as improving the quality of life at Adams. Instead, they have a wild and zany fraternity party complete with oversized joints to get everyone in the party mood.
With such cartoon characters, it’s no surprise that the performances are mostly overplayed. While we may like the sweetness and gentility of some of the boys (Brian Tochi and Timothy Busfield are both rather endearing) and admire their fighting spirit even against a frat full of jocks, these still aren’t anything resembling living, breathing persons though Anthony Edwards among the principals comes the closest to walking that fine line between character and caricature. And it’s pretty shameless of director Jeff Kanew and the writers to try to turn the picture into a message film in the last ten minutes as the nerds beg for understanding and admit they make up a majority of the people on the planet (so why are they begging for acceptance then?). The comeuppance for the Alpha Betas is rather satisfying one is forced to admit though the equally snobbish and vicious Pi Delta Pi sorority seems to skate by without censure just because one of their own (Julie Montgomery) starts dating Robert Carradine’s Lewis.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The film looks amazingly fresh for a movie that’s thirty years old with no signs of age-related artifacts and a crisp and clear picture that features solid color and very appealing flesh tones. Black levels might not be the deepest possible, but they’re more than acceptable, and contrast has been consistently applied. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix has rather limited depth of field but serves the low budget quality of the movie more than adequately. Dialogue is always easily discernible, and the music from various sources and Thomas Newman’s bouncy background score and the various sound effects never compromise the ability of the listener to understand what’s being said. No age-related problems with the audio are present.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: director Jeff Kanew and actors Timothy Busfield, Robert Carradine, and Curtis Armstrong reminisce about the making of the film with only a few spots where they remain silent.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
I’m a Nerd, and I’m Pretty Proud of It (38:36, SD): a look back at the making of the film with director Jeff Kanew and actors Timothy Busfield, Curtis Armstrong, Robert Carradine, Ted McGinley, Andrew Cassese, Larry B. Scott, and Julia Montgomery.
Deleted Scenes (8:48, SD): six scenes may be viewed separately or in montage.
Revenge of the Nerds Television Pilot (24:16, SD): a 1991 television pilot for a proposed series pretty much squeezes the main events from the film into a half hour pilot (with different actors obviously). No surprise it didn’t sell as a series.
Theatrical Trailer (1:25, SD)
In this age where officials are beginning to take a more serious look at bullying, Revenge of the Nerds plays as something of a nostalgia piece from a completely different era. It does offer some laughs in its cartoonish look at social life on a college campus with a Blu-ray transfer that has excellent video quality and some decent looking-back extras as a selling point.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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