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20th Century Fox presents
"I'm a nerd, and I'm pretty proud of it!"
DVD ReviewThere's a memorable line in 1984's geeky collegiate comedy Revenge Of The Nerds that has to do with a certain part of the female body, and I know I'm not the only one to have used it at one time or another over the past 20 years. Shameful, I know. It's uttered by Curtis Armstrong—here playing the grubby nose picker Booger—as he and the other oddball frat nerds are doing a little voyeuristic closed-circuit spying on a nearby sorority house. It's almost a throwaway line, but it really ended up taking on almost mantra-like proportions after this movie. When any movie—especially one as conceptually one-note as this—can muster up that kind of longevity, that's speaks pretty loudly to me.
With Revenge Of The Nerds, even though I know it's hollow, gooey fluff, I do still enjoy it quite a bit. Warts and all.
Directed by Jeff Kanew, Revenge Of The Nerds gleefully wallows in the schlocky simplicity of the 1980s, often looking and feeling more like a made-for-TV movie than a feature film. Lovable nerds go to college, lust after girls, run afoul of the loutish jocks, and triumph over obstacles. The characters are all plucked from the lowest branch of the comedic stereotype tree, each imbued with no more than a thimble full of anything beyond basic stock attributes. In and of itself that would be bad, but Kanew was blessed—in hindsight—with a better-than-average cast (Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Tim Busfield, James Cromwell, John Goodman) who flop around in the waist-deep dumb humor like Olympic swimmers, so that even during the illogical absurdity of the big musical number in the final act it is almost possible buy into it.
This awkwardly-titled Panty Raid Edition is an opportunity to revisit the exploits of uber-nerds Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) and Lewis (Robert Carradine) as they take on life at Adams College, backed by a cadre of similarly inept losers, each outfitted with a single solitary identifiable trait (ethnic, thick glasses, gay, etc). Some things age better than others, and Revenge Of The Nerds is one of the others. There's really no depth to any of these people, but that's the kind of simple, vacuous world that college-based comedy in the 1980s thrived on, attempting to carve out a unique post-Animal House persona. The level of humor is never terribly complex and is littered with enough nudity to fall well on this side of raunchy. Kanew keeps the bare bones plot moving as the nerds struggle to establish their own fraternity on campus, all while doing battle with the muscular jocks of the Alpha Beta house, led by Ted McGinley.
Kanew—as he did with Troop Beverly Hills—is able to take pencil-sketch nothingness and still make neatly constructed, mindless entertainment. That's what we get with Revenge Of The Nerds, juvenile humor of the good versus evil frat boy variety, with the occasional bare breast or pubic region, and not a lick more. It's a simple block of ingredients offered up without much in the way of seasoning, supported by a cast that makes the broad jabs at funny a little more tolerable.
I saw this in a theater back in 1984 (wow, I'm old) and at the time I thought it was pretty darn funny. Then again, I probably had a few beers in me, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Because this is far from a slick, polished comedy, and I can't say it holds up all that well, but maybe that's because in the following two decades there have been about a thousand films with nearly identical plots. Or lack thereof.
What it does retain, however, is that little spark of something or other that, back in '84, I found appealing. Maybe it's the nerd musical number—dig those Devo/Thomas Dolby/Michael Jackson influences—a grandly silly exercise that is right up there with Booger's infamous line. The idea of embracing of one's own nerdiness is the theme here, and by the time Gilbert gets on the microphone to deliver a rousing speech about the rise of nerd power, the stock dumbness is well past its apogee.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer appears to be identical to the previous double-feature release from 2001, which is to say mediocre, at best. Print quality is a bit grainy and edge detail is noticeably soft, and the print is marred by some bouts of moderate dirt/debris. Colors seem a little washed out in spots, with fleshtones levels varying greatly from scene to scene.
Not a great transfer by any stretch. I was secretly hoping for a remastered version, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: Not a whole lot of difference between the original mono and the tweaked 2.0 stereo track, both of which are provided here (as they were on the 2001 release). Voice clarity is never really an issue, but neither track can do much to overcome the inherent flatness of the presentation. The stereo choice tries to force an artificial spatial sense, but it never sounds quite natural. After flipping back and forth between the two, I opted for and stuck with the original mono.
French and Spanish mono dubs are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Revenge Of The Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jeff Kanew, Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, Curtis Armstrong
Extras Review: I really dislike when a special edition carries a cutesy moniker, and this one being called the Panty Raid Edition is just another example of that. Yeesh. It does come with a slipcase—if that kind of thing matters to you—as well as a two-page insert discussing the film's history, with sections like Underdogs with Overbites and Channeling the Inner Nerd.
A new commentary track featuring director Jeff Kanew and cast members Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, and Curtis Armstrong is an appropriately lighthearted remembrance, and these guys all seem to know they're not talking Citizen Kane here. Info like shooting the rowdy Alpha Beta party scene in a funeral home is about as deep as it gets, and Busfield especially seems to be having a great time looking back.
I'm A Nerd, and Pretty Proud Of It (38m:37s) has Kanew and most of the cast (Anthony Edwards is apparently too cool these days) looking back on the production and its status as something of a cult title. This is a nice little piece that's never too pompous, and folks like Busfield, Armstrong, and Carradine seem to revel in the experience.
A set of six deleted scenes (08m:45s) are more notable for the absence of final sound mixing than for being particularly funny—when there's a party scene we see dancing but no music. And to reinforce one of those god awful movie-to-television transitions, there's the full-length Revenge Of The Nerds: Television Pilot (24m:18s), an absolute trainwreck of a show with an annoying laugh track and Robbie Rist as its biggest star.
The disc is cut into 24 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA goofy relic from 1984, Revenge Of The Nerds may not have aged all that well, but it still holds a sweet spot in this reviewer's nostalgic brain. Simplistic and cartoonish more often than not, it's all dumb buffoonery and nerdly righteousness and so ridiculously one-dimensional that it makes Animal House look like The Seventh Seal. But that's ok, because sometimes dumb and nerdly is just what I need.
An absolute guilty pleasure of mine, this one comes recommended, weak transfer and all.
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