Archive Review: Revenge of the Nerds (1984)


The plight of the nerd has taken many forms in film and television over the years, but none so genuine as “Revenge of the Nerds.” Amidst all the sex and party-obsessed college stereotyping and seemingly unrealistic projection of the high school nerds vs. jocks concept onto the college scene, these nerds are pretty likable characters and their pranks make for the most classic college movie scenes outside of “Animal House.”

Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards play high school best friends (and bonafide nerds equipped with ridiculous inhaling laughs) who struggle to fit in to the college scene. When the jock fraternity — the Alpha Betas — burn their house down, they kick the freshmen out of their dorms and somehow they all get stuck living in the gym. After fraternity rush only the nerds are left homeless, so to get out, they try and start a fraternity, eventually gaining charter status with Lambda Lambda Lambda, a historically black fraternity.

At odds with the nerds are the Alpha Betas and their sister sorority the Pis. Both groups try and make life a living hell for the nerds, who decide to use their high IQs to fight back. They kick it off with the infamous panty raid, busting into the Pi house and stealing the girls’ underwear while also installing surveillance cameras in the bathrooms.

Once you get over the hump that there’s no feasible way for “Revenge of the Nerds” to ever take place and that jocks and nerds would never have a rivalry going in a college setting, this movie becomes classic. There’s a lot of clever scene writing which completely makes up for the one-dimensional characters — namely the jocks. In all other movies it would all seem completely stupid, but “Nerds” delivers with just the right attitude to not provoke your criticisms.

The nerds and their nerd girl friends are also great characters. Lewis and Gilbert as the lead nerds are really quite endearing. There’s a naivety in their performances that keeps them from turning into completely nerd stereotypes. Also, the writing team doesn’t try the pointless technique of providing subplots for all the other members of the Tri-Lams. They might be stereotypes, but their comedic value is greater because they fill out the off-color picture of the nerds. Truthfully, there are so many ways “Revenge of the Nerds” could have slipped and become a mediocre movie, but for these reasons it remains one of the more memorable “college” frat movies of all time.

3.5/5 Stars

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Directed by Jeff Kanew
Written by Jeff Buhai, Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Steve Zacharias
Starring: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards


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