In this hilarious classic, a group of misfits decides to start their own fraternity after being rejected by every house on campus. But when the football jocks try to crush their nerd counterparts, a battle royale erupts between brains and brawn and the nerds devise the perfect plan to gain the upper hand.
From Lewis Skolnick's absurdly ridiculous donkey laugh, to Takashi's poor pronunciation of English, 'Revenge of the Nerds' is littered with a variety of memorable moments and unforgettable characters. Child prodigy Wormser (Andrew Cassese), who I probably related to most because of his age but sadly not his intelligence, warms up to college life when talking about computers and aerodynamics while wedged between two well-endowed women. Dudley "Booger" Dawson (Curtis Armstrong) delivers one of the loudest and unhealthiest burps to win the prize. Then, we have Lamar Latrelle (Larry B. Scott) winning the javelin throw because of his limp-wristed style while Poindexter (Timothy Busfield), who wears thick bottle glasses and is still blind, screams in shocked horror at his erection.
One of the best aspects of this awesome cult favorite is that even the antagonists are just as timeless, starting from the moment when a jean overalls-wearing frat idiot blows a 180-proof ball of fire on the curtains. Stan Gable (Ted McGinley being his usual hilariously handsome self), the quarterback leader of the Alpha-Beta fraternity, is decidedly the most memorable of the bunch with his absolute hatred of Lewis and the Lambdas. Coming a close second is without a doubt "Ogre" Palowaski (Donald Gibb), the giant, low-IQ jock with his wild hair and his enduring "NERDS!!" scream. Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery), is the epitome of the mean girl who eventually discovers that nerds possess a hidden talent she desires. To top it off, John Goodman plays Coach Harris, a man who clearly used to be a jock and bully but never grew out of that phase.
For me, few movies are as deeply ingrained in my childhood memory as this little comedy from Jeff Kanew. I probably tend to use such compliments somewhat loosely, but I know I'm definitely not exaggerating in the case of nerds standing up to their tormentors. The plot has pretty much everything you could ever want from a movie. It has exciting action in the way of a DUI tricycle race with Takashi (Brian Tochi) showing he can handle his beer. After being kicked out of the freshmen dorms by the football team, Lewis (Robert Carradine) rises to the occasion to become the hero who inspires other nerds to fight back. There's even romance as Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) gains the confidence needed to be a leader and to win the girl, Judy (Michelle Meyrink, 'Real Genius').
The real beauty of the story is that the filmmakers liken the maltreatment, harassment, and systematic fear of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity to that of the Civil Rights movement. The nerds only want to be accepted as equals but also allowed to live their lives as they wish. However, the jocks refuse to accept their presence on campus, escalating the abuse and persecution to the point of burning a "NERDS" sign and destroying the fraternity's house. Making the parallels all the more obvious is U.N. Jefferson (Bernie Casey) pledging his support for our heroes to fight the injustice, especially during the inspiring conclusion when several Tri-Lambs show up to scare the coach and the entire football while Gilbert delivers a stirring speech about the importance of self-acceptance.
'Revenge of the Nerds' is your standard raunchy teen sex comedy, which was a wildly popular genre in the early 1980s, but it stands out for turning the basic formula into something that manages to inspire and influence. In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest it's probably the best of its kind, filling the screen with lovable characters that fight a cultural system overrun by bullies. Kanew directs with a light but energetic touch that never allows the story's deeper themes to feel heavy-handed, maintaining focus on the Lambda's struggle and their raunchy college pranks. In a decade littered with other memorable comedies like 'Porky's,' 'Zapped!' and 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High,' the nerds' vengeance is all the more bitter sweet because they fight for justice and the right to party!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Revenge of the Nerds' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc. This would have been a great opportunity for a 30th Anniversary special edition, but instead, the studio went with a simple cover design, same supplements from previous release and a blue, eco-cutout case. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static menu with music and the usual options.
The nerds demand vengeance on Blu-ray but sadly fail to win the Greek Games with overwhelming satisfaction, which is not to say the AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) comes in dead last. The mostly average yet decently strong presentation is more like a third place winner, so depending on how one looks at it, Lewis and Gilbert either walk away champions or in humiliation.
By and large, the picture is clean and an improvement over previous home video editions, yet the grain is noticeably inconsistent — some scenes are rough and almost noisy while others are appreciably film-like. While definition and clarity are acceptable for a film of this vintage, much of the movie appears ordinary and overall soft. The contrast is not particularly bright and a bit on the dull, flat side with whites that are average and somewhat bland. Black levels are generally pleasing and accurate, but delineation is only okay with several instances of murky, faded shadows. The color palette benefits the most from the jump into HD, displaying lots of bright, animated primaries, making this a nice presentation but it won't likely wow anyone.
Things don't improve much — or at all, for that matter — in the audio department, despite the awesome music number during the final challenge of the Greek Games. There's nothing particularly wrong or unsavory worth noting; it's simply a tad boring and run-of-the-mill. The DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack comes with a good sense of presence and fidelity, but imaging is fairly narrow and pretty bland. The mid-range largely feels limited and uniform although a few instances reveal the potential with something a bit more expansive and extensive if given the full restoration treatment. Of course, with a comedy of this caliber, the dialogue is ultimately what matters, which in case, the lossless mix passes with flying colors. There's really no bass to speak of, so in the end, the cult favorite shows lots of heart but won't likely win more pledges.
From the Tri-Lambs to the Alpha-Betas, 'Revenge of the Nerds' is a cult favorite that continues to deliver the laughs and excitement after 30 years. Feigning to be another in the popular teen sex comedy genre, the plot is a sidesplitting mix of the underdog formula along with the sort of raunchiness that was popular at the time. For its 30th anniversary, the movie hits Blu-ray with an average but still fairly strong audio and video presentation. Supplements are ported over from the DVD release. Overall, the package is a small enough improvement, though real-life nerds and geeks would have loved something more along the lines of a special edition. Worth a look.