There is a well-known saying describing college as being the best times in a person's life and after spending the last 4 years in one, I'd have to wholeheartedly agree. As a result, college-themed movies had always earned a higher placing on my favorites list regardless of how stupid they turn out to be. One such movie was Return of the Nerds, which to me was the best college flick next to the even cheesier Animal House. If you've seen both these movies, you might have noticed several remarkable similarities between them, like the fact that they were both centered around an all-out frat war where a group of social outcasts are forced to take on the all-powerful jocks in a classic battle of brawn versus brains. Even the jokes were based on a similar theme, an example being in one of its character profiles bearing a striking resemblance to Bluto ( John Belushi ) from 1978's Animal House.
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An obnoxious pig-like character had always worked extremely well in generating a whole lot of attention ( and laughs ), so why not recycle the tried & true Belushi act? The character known as Booger ( Curtis Armstrong ) does a decent job living up to John Belushi's Bluto though I felt he could have been further developed if the film had paid a little more attention to him. And of course, as a general rule, the head cheerleader ( Julie Montgomery ) had to be blonde. No surprises there folks. The movie opens with a scene depicting our nerdy duo ( Robert Carradine & Anthony Edwards ) saying their last goodbyes before embarking on a 7 hour road trip to the prestigious Adams College. Things were going fairly well upon their arrival until they were spotted by members of the jock Alpha Beta fraternity, who were not surprisingly, the number 1 nerd haters in school.
Despite possessing all that brawn, the average Alpha Beta was still 20 IQs short of Forrest Gump but dumbest of them all was a character named Ogre ( Donald Gibb* ) whose limited vocabulary consists of nothing but ape-like grunts & the word 'nerd'. The chief baddie was a slightly smarter but less imposing fellow named Stan Gable who's coincidentally blond like the head cheerleader. Adding further to the film's stereotypical nature, they had to make him a star quarterback as well. Like most other college-themed flicks, the viewer is made to believe that all college quarterbacks are supposedly blond, evil & making out with the head cheerleader.
We now cut to a scene where a typical frat party is currently taking place at the Alpha Beta house. In a classic display of stupidity, they set fire to their own house, burning it down to the ground & blaming it on the faulty electrical circuits. With their frat house gone, the jocks are now forced into considering other forms of accomodation, namely the freshman dorm currently home to the nerd population. Worked into a frenzy by their evil head coach ( John Goodman ), the jocks go berserk on the unsuspecting nerds, throwing them out of their dorms & forcing them to live like POWs in a gymnasium. Fortunately, the nerds were able to find themselves a house of their own, much to the displeasure of the Alpha Betas.
Meanwhile, the jocks are up to their usual tricks in trying to make life as miserable as possible for the poor nerds. In order to stand a fighting chance, the nerds seek help from the Omega Mu sorority after forming their own frat uniting themselves against the combined onslaught of both the Alpha Betas & the snobbish Pi Delta Pi sorority. One thing leads to another resulting in a full-scale war between them as the jocks fear-based tactics are countered tenfold using nerd ingenuity.
This whole nerd-jock war spanned several sequels, continuing with an all new generation in part 3 and finally ending with the made-for-TV part 4. ROTN is a definite recommendation to anyone who's a fan of college-themed comedies. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out the entire ROTN series and don't forget to include Animal House on your list as well. Overall grade: B+
Donald Gibb* - Hey, isn't he Van Damme's beefy sidekick who got clobbered by Bolo Yeung in Bloodsport?
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