Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time to talk about a movie that I have always wanted to touch upon, partially because I feel like when it comes to the people in my extended social circles, I feel like I am the only one who really has such an extended exposure to this film compared to everyone else. Well, maybe except people born before me. It is time to talk about the tale where the odd attempt to get even, the losers try to become winners. It is time to talk about the 1980s cult classic, “Revenge of the Nerds” in a brand new Scene Before review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!”
“Revenge of the Nerds” is directed by Jeff Kanew (Ordinary People, Natural Enemies) and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Anthony Edwards (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, It Takes Two), Ted McGinley (The Love Boat, Happy Days), and Bernie Casey (Never Say Never Again, Boxcar Bertha) in a film where Lewis (Carradine) and Gilbert (Edwards) head off to Adams College together in the hopes of pursuing an excellent education in addition to possibly meeting girls. Things do not go off to a great start as they, alongside other nerdy freshman are forced to live in the gym. When the jocks of the Alpha Beta fraternity keep getting on their tail in various ways, the nerds decide it is time to teach them a lesson.
I have wanted to talk about this film for a long time. Literally just saying that feels like a tremendous understatement. When it comes to comedy franchises, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” the masterpiece that every other franchise should try to be, but it is nevertheless one that I think shaped me more than others. As some of you know, I was a huge fan of the reality show “King of the Nerds” on TBS, which was partially inspired by this film. In fact, part of the reason why I went back to watch this film in the first place was because of my admiration for the reality show. I am not going to talk about the television show that much in this post, but I do want to talk about something that this film has in common with the television show. It takes the nerd demographic, in addition to one or two underrepresented groups, and makes an attempt at empowering them by the end. “King of the Nerds” did that gracefully when I watched it years ago. As for “Revenge of the Nerds,” I would say the same, but the more I watch it, the more I notice that someone could see it today and not find it as empowering.
Now, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” a film that should be taken seriously. It’s a maturely rated sex comedy for a reason. If anything, it’s really a combination of “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” at least in part, when you break down the concept. They were never making this movie for kids, and honestly, if I had kids, I’d wait until they reach somewhere in the double digit ages to show them this film. But even as an adult, there is a scene that I look at and think would not pass by the censors today in Hollywood. I’ll get to that later. But for now, let’s focus on characters.
We start off the film as we’re introduced to Lewis (right) and Gilbert (left). Two friends who become college roommates until they are suddenly kicked out of their dorm. Right off the bat I got a sense that these two were a likable pair. As we see them enter Adams College, they try to encourage each other to be the best they can and make it through a fun year of education and girls. I also really think they nailed the outfits for these two between the glasses, the pocket protectors, they fit the stereotype in the film’s title while also coming off as fun for the viewer.
One of the things I like about this film is the supporting cast of nerds, because they went out of their way to make everyone have their individualities and insert some slight diversity. They have their differences, but one thing they seem to have in common, perhaps like every guy on the face of the earth, they love sex. Well, almost everyone. Wormser’s not even in his teens. Going back to what I said about Lewis and Gilbert, I seriously think they nailed the look of all these characters.
Poindexter has some semi-decent looking outfits, he’s got big glasses, crazy hair. I love it. He’s also got this gag in the film where he’s constantly practicing the violin, which by the end of the film, it becomes a part of his arc in a satisfying way.
Moving onto Wormser, he is not even a teenager and yet here he is in college. Like a few of the other nerds, he’s got over the top glasses, and I love this kid from the moment he appears. Not only is he kind of cute, but looking back, he also reminds me of myself whenever I entered certain activities at a particular age. I had a particular resistance sometimes as I was not the same age as some other people.
Lamar (center) is hyperactive, he’s got crazy outfits, and he spends some of the movie in front of the television watching exercise videos that I would assume are directed at women. In fact, he is homosexual, which in a way, kind of makes me respect him a bit for going through this film’s plot with many of the other guys given what they try to do.
I mean, I said before when this movie was going for diversity, I think they nailed it on the nerds part. Between having someone who was young, someone who is black and gay, in addition to a guy who is of Japanese descent with Takashi, who is wonderfully played by Brian Toshi (right), they nailed having a diverse group of characters. But I also cannot forget Curtis Armstrong’s iconic portrayal of Booger.
I’m not just saying this because I am a fan of the actor, but Armstrong nails the role of Dudley “Booger” Dawson. I think if anything, he was perfectly cast. It’s really weird to say that because well, this is a guy whose defining trait is poor hygiene and nose picking, but I mean this as a compliment because Armstrong, even though in real life, he is honestly nowhere near as revolting, aces the portrayal of an outcast who has some coolness within him to the point where maybe he’s also kind of a jerk. I would say as far as all the supporting nerds go, I think his character is probably the most sex-obsessed of the bunch. In fact, there’s a point where the nerds are hosting a party and Booger has the most resistance to the guests being invited as they are not the “party type” in his eyes. As fun as Booger can be, he also kind of has particular tastes and poor manners.
I also love this shirt that he’s wearing in the picture above. It suits the character well and goddamnit is it cool. Of all the nerds in the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity. I have a strong feeling that if you were a regular guy, Booger is the one you’d want to hang out with the most, at least on the surface that’s how things seem. As for how that hangout will go, we’ll find out.
When I referenced the diversity factor amongst the group of nerds, one thing that I immediately thought about afterwards was the lack of diversity within the opposing jocks of the film. The jocks in “Revenge of the Nerds” are represented by the Alpha Beta fraternity, which has members who are on the school’s football team, and the Pi Delta Pi Sorority. One of the members of said sorority, Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery) is dating Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), quarterback of the Adams Atoms and president of the Greek Council. Here’s the thing about the Alpha Betas and Pi Delta Pis. Every member of both groups that I saw in this film happened to be caucasian. I do not recall seeing a single person who was black, Asian, or anyone else of a particular descent. While the Lambda Lambda Lamdba fraternity still has a few white people in it, the casting department did a good job at making this group have a sense of diversity by having a few people appear different from others. You have your white people, you have someone who’s black and gay, you have a young kid, you have someone who is Japanese. If anything, this movie is almost a parody on white privilege and how minorities and others are trying to make themselves relevant in a society that is dominated by the whites. It is in the same way how Adams College, at least from the perspective of this film, has a student body dominated by jocks. I do think this film, on its surface, is something that stands out as a whimsical sex comedy. But much like I said about 2018’s “Blockers” when I reviewed that film, it has layers and fantastic characters with likable individualities that I did not expect going in.
Oh yeah, did I mention the music? This movie has pretty kick-ass music. Much of the score is that 1980s blocky tune that sounds like something you would hear out of an 8 bit video game. It fits the movie well. But there are a couple original songs that define the film and make it a musical treat. The opening song, simply titled “Revenge of the Nerds” is a banger that truly feels like it belongs in its decade. It’s also a pretty good anthem for the nerd community once they get out of high school, because as this movie suggests in the beginning, Lewis and Gilbert did not have the best time in high school but they are looking at college as a point to redeem themselves.
As a nerd myself, I respect this film. Not only because it is funny, charming, and by the end, a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of. But it was kind of one of those early pieces of media that made nerds cool. People talk about “The Big Bang Theory,” which is a great show by the way, and how it makes nerds cool. “Revenge of the Nerds” walked so “The Big Bang Theory” could run.
But just because I appreciate this movie to no end, does not mean it is not problematic.
One of the problems of the film that did not really stand out to me during early viewings, but it is one that I thought about during my most recent viewing, is that the first of the Greek Games happen to be arguably flawed. Now I know this movie is set in the 1980s, but I would love to know what state this film was set in. I know it’s the midwest. But where specifically? What are the drinking laws? That’s my question. Minor complaint, but it kind of stands for now. I can live with this.
However, the one big conflict of this movie for me is the scene during the charity fundraiser where we see Lewis go after Betty Childs at an attempt to have sex with her.
Just for context, the Alpha Betas set up a “kiss for charity booth.” After some time, Betty expresses to Stan that she’s getting horny from all the kissing and wants to do it. Stan does not follow Betty, allowing Lewis to get into Stan’s costume and find Betty waiting for him. The two do it on the moon, where Lewis remains masked. After intercourse, Lewis takes his mask off, shocking Betty. Now, after everything that happened in this movie, you’d probably expect Betty to slap Lewis and shove him aside. Nope! She accepts him because he is so great at sex! That’s a lesson for every generation! If you steal someone’s girl, the girl does not know the guy in front of her is not her own, and that guy is spectacular at f*cking, then hey! It’s okay! We can move on! In some cases, this would honestly be considered rape. While this certainly does fit the “revenge” theme of the film that has been implemented throughout the runtime, this may be too far. Now I do think Lewis and Betty have chemistry. But it does not change the fact that their love connection started with what could technically be defined as rape. There’s revenge, and then there’s being a maniac. Again, this is “Revenge of the Nerds,” which as mentioned before, I would put together in that same realm as “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” so I would not take the film as seriously as others. But this is still something to think about.
I love this movie. I really do. But every time I watch it now, part of me wonders if Lewis takes things too far. By the end of film, he and Betty are in love. Which, that’s great. I’m glad the two are in love, and they do have solid chemistry. Unfortunately though, it started with something that to this day would be unacceptable. One of the constants in this film is the excessive horniness of the guys. After all, they’re in college, there’s a bunch of girls, and I do not mind that side of them being explored. Lots of guys are this way, but the way they go about it with Lewis by the end of the film rubs me off the wrong way the more I think about it, even though the dialogue at the end of that moon scene is… Well, actually kind of well written. I’m not gonna lie.
Betty Childs: Are all nerds as good as you?
Betty Childs: How come?
Lewis: ‘Cause all jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.
Gotta admit, Robert Carradine gave a really convincing delivery on that line. I just wish it were in a less conflicting scene.
Despite this, I think “Revenge of the Nerds” stands as one of my favorite comedies. I’m not going to call it the pinnacle of all things funny. But a lot of the jokes hold up today, the film is well cast, and I almost forgot to mention John Goodman as Coach Harris, who is a BLOODY RIOT. He is ridiculously over the top, trying to empower his team, while also being on the opposing side of the nerds. The movie does a really good job at making this jock side look kind of hyperactively evil and Coach Harris is part of that. Have you ever seen a movie or show where the villain is in their quarters kind of frustrated with themselves or taking their anger out on other people due to a recent failure? There’s a great scene towards the end of the film where Harris is yelling at the jocks because of the nerds getting the upper-hand on them.
Oh yeah, and Ogre’s face is everything. “NEEEEEEERDS!”
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a great movie that probably would not be made today. Well I wouldn’t say that. Partially because Seth MacFarlane is supposedly working on a redo of the film at the moment, but also because I feel like the movie could be popular today with nerdy being cool. It will probably have a lot more pop culture influence in the script, maybe some gaming elements intact. But if they are going to try to make it as sex heavy as the original, I’d tell them to be careful because with the #MeToo movement having blossomed a few years back, if they made that original movie today, it would probably strike controversy. It would probably get some people thinking that nerds are not good people. Probably sex maniacs. But when the film ends with Lewis and Gilbert giving the speech about them being proud of their nerdy selves and the film’s rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” started playing, it delivered a message of positivity. It gave people who did not often have a voice to speak up. This is not only for the nerds, but for people who are black, people who are gay, anyone who has ever been left out. This speaks to me and I love this message of inclusion. In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a fun movie with a rocky road in terms of what it is trying to suggest to the viewer. But I would say give it a watch, see what you think, and given how it is a comedy, I should warn you, it is hilarious. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds” a 7/10.
I said before that this is one of my favorite comedies. But is also an enigma. While the film itself comes as something that should not be taken too seriously. Part of me wonders what would happen if not younger viewers, let’s face it, seven year old kids should not be watching “Revenge of the Nerds,” but people of my generation and maybe a little younger put this on for the first time. While this movie is massively entertaining with some great layers and lovable characters, there’s that one big conflict in my head that sort of brings it down. I’ll still watch it again. In fact, in 2017 I got to meet most of the cast at Rhode Island Comic Con and they were all wonderful people. I literally have three autographs from Curtis Armstrong, the guy who plays Booger. This movie may be doing something right if I went to meet all those people. As Gilbert in the movie suggests, I’m a nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.
“Revenge of the Nerds” is available on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. The film is not available anywhere to buy or rent digitally at the moment, but you can catch reruns of it on cable channels like IFC and AMC, and you can also watch it on AMC+.
Thanks for reading this review! Next Monday, August 16th, I will be reviewing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” the much less liked sequel and the last film in the franchise to receive a theatrical release. Stay tuned for my thoughts! Also, be sure to check out my review for “The Suicide Squad” coming this week! I cannot wait to talk about this movie. And I bet some of you cannot wait to hear my thoughts on it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, be sure to check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you saw that you love, but has that one thing about it that brings the score down for you? It could be something big, small, medium. As far as “Revenge of the Nerds” goes, the one thing that brought it down for me was pretty big. Just gonna say it. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!