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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie anticipates the rise of "nerd chic," suggesting that it can be cool to be smart, and that kids who are good at math and science can be just as fun as other college students.
Positive Role Models
Characters work together to overcome obstacles, even though their means are sometimes questionable.
Violence & Scariness
A laser is redirected to demolish (in a unique and memorable way) a large house.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several jokes and one-liners referencing sex and masturbation. Jokes about penises. One of the lead characters poses as Jesus and commands the antagonist to "stop playing with yourself." A young woman asks one of the lead characters, "Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?" This young woman is later shown leaving the bedroom of a professor of the college. A 15-year-old is propositioned for sex by an older woman. Talk of sex at an impromptu "tanning party" in which bikini-clad women from the nearby cosmetology school run around.
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Occasional profanity. "A--hole," "dips--t," "bastard," "balls." Various one-liners about penises, sex, and masturbation.
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Products & Purchases
Frito-Lay products shown and mentioned, including reference to a contest Frito-Lay is having. McDonald's bags clearly shown. A character holds a box with the Budweiser logo clearly shown. 7-11 Big Gulp cups.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage drinking in a bar. Beer drinking at a party. Cigar smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Real Genius is a 1985 comedy in which Val Kilmer plays a college-aged math and science prodigy. It's less shockingly dated than other '80s comedies but it does still have some iffy moments. For instance, a college-age woman is shown wearing nothing but a nightgown as she leaves the bedroom of a much older professor. A young teen enters his dorm room to find an older woman, who attempts to have sex with him. There are frequent jokes about penises, sex, and masturbation, including a scene in which one of the lead characters poses as Jesus and commands one of the antagonists to "Stop touching yourself." There's an impromptu "tanning party" in which bikini-clad women from the nearby cosmetology school run around. Profanity includes "s--thole," "dips--t," "bastard," and "balls." Some underage drinking. For better or worse, it's a happy medium between Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is as '80s as parachute pants, Aqua-Netted manes, and keytars. It occupies a space somewhere between Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, but lacks the overall quality to be the "classic comedy" of the former and comes off as a somewhat more thoughtful (if not as funny) variation on the latter. There are some memorable scenes involving over-the-top pranks and one-liners that could only come out of an '80s movie, but there are already so many variations on the "crazy college hijinx and sexcapades" type of movie. Even the main characters, young out-of-place Mitch and wild and crazy Chris, seem like just a slight variation of Rudy and Tripper in Meatballs.
Still, there's enough depth to the characters to make these young prodigies more than the typical stereotype of smart kids as "nerds" who walk around in thick glasses and pocket protectors. And compared to so many other '80s comedies in which ethnic and sexual orientation stereotypes abound, as well as sexual situations that are downright creepy if not deserving of prison time, Real Genius avoids most of that (there is a scene in which an older woman does try to seduce the 15-year-old Mitch). It even communicates some worthwhile and relevant discussion about the struggles of young people who have remarkable talents.
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.