Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

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I said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you’re going to rip off a movie, twist it in to something unique and almost refreshing. “Revenge of the Nerds” is my favorite “Animal House” rip off of all time. And while “Animal House” was about underdog slackers battling upper crest class men, “Revenge of the Nerds” focuses on the grade A students and outcasts that fight for their right to be treated like human beings in the face of a world that values physical prowess over basic intellect. “Revenge of the Nerds” has its charms, and though it riffs on “Animal House” every now and then, it still comes out feeling unique and original.

It embraces the nerdy protagonists with immense heart and treats them like under appreciated heroes. Whether it’s the gross Booger, the child prodigy Harold Wormser, or the flamboyantly homosexual Lamarr, they’re given their own chances to be comical, but the script also treats them with enough respect to root for them. True, they’re stereotypes, but they’re also likable and charming underdogs that won’t back down. Lewis and Gilbert have just arrived at college, and find themselves preparing for a year of changes, and studying Computer Sciences. When the local frat house the Alpha Betas accidentally burn their house down during a party, they strong arm the nerds out of their dorms, forcing them to hold up in the gymnasium for the rest of the semester.

The college decides to allow the big shift and obvious bullying thanks to the intimidation of Coach Harris (John Goodman in a small but memorable role), but Lewis refuses to allow the change to alter his year. Lewis, Gilbert, and a group of their friends decide to create their own fraternity by refurbishing an abandoned house near campus, and campaigning for membership with the all African American Lambda Lambda Lambda. When Alpha Beta find out, they decide to wage war, and the nerds retaliate with a streak of pranks that make their lives hell. “Revenge of the Nerds” is mostly a college comedy but one that really highlights the adversity these characters have to undergo to make their statement.

Much of “Revenge of the Nerds” is centered on Lewis and Gilbert using their brains to battle the brawn of the Alpha Betas, resulting in a slew of laugh out loud moments. From the panty raid, to the cream pies with the nude picture on the pan, right down to the inflamed jock straps, the movie is never short of laughs. There are also a slew of great performances by the cast, including Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards, as well as Curtis Armstrong and the great Bernie Casey. “Revenge of the Nerds” hasn’t aged much, even in the context of the decade, and works mainly for the hilarious script, and very unique characters that are able to connect with audiences. It’s an eighties comedy gem and one I still love even in light of it perpetually living in the shadow of “Animal House.”