Movie review by
Tracey Petherick, Common Sense Media
Genius Movie Poster Image
Disney alter ego comedy has positive messages, role models.
  • NR
  • 1999
  • 85 minutes

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Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Though the movie is intended to entertain rather than educate, kids may be inspired to learn more about science.

Positive Messages

The importance of friendship and teamwork, and what it means to be inclusive. Understanding that people aren't always as they first appear and appreciating the value of honesty and being your true self. What it means to help out your friends and to make amends when you've let people down. Understanding that if you want something to change, you need to do things differently.

Positive Role Models

Charlie is enthusiastic and determined, passionate about both science and sport, with a charming, positive attitude. His deceptive actions are well balanced by his good intentions. Claire is bright, smart, and friendly, demonstrating a natural confidence. Charlie's father is loving, supportive, and proud of his son. Dr. Krickstein is full of respect and admiration for Charlie. Charlie's college roommates are arrogant and sexist at first -- but they grow into warm, likable characters.

Diverse Representations

Very little diversity in a story largely about White, straight, neurotypical, able-bodied, financially-comfortable characters. There are two Black characters in supporting roles.

Violence & Scariness

Some aggression on the hockey rink, often portrayed as slapstick.

Sexy Stuff

One gentle kiss between teens. 


A few playground insults and teasing, including "stupid," "brainiac," "losers," "jerk," and "kick his butt." A hockey coach addresses the male team as "ladies."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Genius is a lighthearted family comedy with positive messages, strong role models, and no iffy content. The story centers around 14-year-old Charlie (Trevor Morgan), a child genius who creates an alter ego in order to make new friends and impress a girl. Made by the Disney Channel in 1999 it has a notable lack of diversity among the cast and within the story. There is some teasing and a few insults including "jerk," plus sexist use of the term "ladies" when addressing the all-male hockey team. Themes throughout include the value of friendship and the importance of being yourself, while several characters display positive traits such as enthusiasm, self-confidence, and empathy. While there's nothing inappropriate for younger kids, the content and storyline will probably most appeal to tweens.

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What's the story?

GENIUS tells the story of 14-year-old Charlie Boyle (Trevor Morgan), hockey lover and expert in particle physics, who has always struggled to fit in. A science prodigy, he gets a place at college and is tasked with helping a professor with his research into defying gravity. It's a dream come true, but it doesn't make his social life any easier. When he meets schoolgirl Claire (Emmy Rossum) at the ice rink, he creates an alter ego -- the much cooler and socially competent Chaz -- and enrolls at Junior High in an effort to get closer to her. Now he needs to use his quick wits and intelligence to juggle two lives -- with mixed results.

Is it any good?

A standard Disney offering from the 1990s' TV movie stable, this is nonetheless a charming coming-of-age story with a lighthearted tone. Genius somehow gets away with combining science and sport, making particle physics experiments seem just as exciting as fast-paced ice hockey sequences.

Morgan and Rossum -- both just 13 when this was made -- have a natural flair and snappy chemistry. And while Morgan's alter ego character Chaz will have you cringing throughout, he'll no doubt also elicit a few laughs. There are numerous implausible plotlines -- not least that an eccentric pair of scientists holed up under an ice rink might uncover the secret to defying gravity -- but at its heart this is a story about growing up, first love, and being true to yourself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the positive messages in Genius. Where do we see the value of friendship, the importance of being yourself, or what it means to be inclusive? Why are these important things to consider in our own lives?

  • Talk about the concept of being "cool." Why might it affect someone's popularity, confidence, or self-esteem? What do you think makes someone cool?

  • Do you think Charlie is a good role model? He's hardworking, passionate, and warmhearted but his actions are deceitful. Do his positive traits outweigh the negative? Why media role models matter.

  • Talk about the lack of diversity. Would you have liked to see more diverse characters? Would that have improved the story? Why is representation important in movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age comedies

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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