In 1984 the cult classic Revenge of the Nerds, directed by Jeff Kanew, inspired the uprising of the college underclass and bought the tribulations of geeks to the forefront of the Hollywood agenda. With its mix of gross out humour and likeable characters Nerds was part of a new age of comedy teen college humour that came to prominence with films like National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978. These films went on to inspire gross out teen movies for up to three full decades afterwards including three underwhelming sequels: Nerds in Paradise, The Next Generation and Nerds in Love.
With the changes to American college life since then and the way that “nerds” are perceived in popular culture, I was curious if this movie could be remade today. It is these “nerds” who now pretty much run Hollywood. You can’t move in this world without a new comic book movie making over a billion dollars or a fantasy movie dominating the box office whilst making the critics purr. It would be a great opportunity to see where we’ve come as a culture. Revenge the remake could be an important social document of the state of demographical representation within college.
In 2006 a team led by Adam Brody, penned to co-produce and star, looked to remake the cult classic which was planned for release the following year. Obviously with the success of the Judd Apatow comedies that burst onto the scene like 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad they thought the nerds were rising once again to the forefront of comedy. This fell apart but led me to toy with the idea of whether it could even be possible.
The original is a classic in its own way. As well as showing us some upcoming stars at the beginning of their careers including Anthony Edwards, John Goodman and James Cromwell, the latter I would never have believed to see in the opening scene of a film like this. There were some truly memorable scenes, the final musical number at the Greek Games, which has been wonderfully yet respectfully been parodied in Family Guy, is an absolute joy to watch as well as Lambda, Lambda, Lambda’s first party in their new house. We were spoilt with a huge array of likeable characters that have gone on to become the template for many after them. Sure Revenge was crude in some respects but this kind of humour has been replicated in everything from American Pie onwards.
However, there are some drawbacks to a potential remake. The fact that teen humour saturated the market within the last twenty years might lead people to say “Not Another Teen Movie!” There were so many at the end of the nineties and start of the noughties that I’ve seen enough American college girl’s boobs and jocks mistakenly eating bodily fluids in their mouth to last me a lifetime. Other people may offer an objection as they like the original so much and would feel a remake unnecessary. I feel this about quite a few of the movies coming out today, especially the recent wave of Paul Verhoeven remakes with Robocop and Total Recall. But if a remake can offer something new and different than why shouldn’t it be remade?
The other problem is some of the film’s content that would be viewed in a completely different context today. Things that were mostly innocent in their own time seem somewhat criminal today. Feminism and gender rights has come a long way since the eighties and scenes that contain what can only be described as rape make a lot of people in this day in age feel a bit uncomfortable. The main character Lewis Skolnick sees an opportunity to wear a mask in a darkened room in order to have sex with the main jocks girlfriend. Unaware of whom it is she continues and enjoys it. She is shocked when it is revealed to be Skolnick but because it was so great forgives him. In one of the sequels they even get married. I know it’s supposed to be funny and Revenge for being mean to the nerds but rape isn’t really a good revenge tactic for a comedy film. Lucky for him she didn’t run to the nearest police station. Somehow I think they’d struggle to put this in a light hearted film today.
The illegal acts occur before this as well as after the nerds break into the girls dorm for a panty run and to plant hidden camera they retreat back to their student home and masturbate to hidden video footage of these girls for a whole night of explicit voyeurism. Now, this is something I’ve seen in plenty of films since then and it’s been accepted, perhaps with a lot of eye rolling, but you have to really be careful with scenes like this.
I say this, but surely there has been worse in comedies today. Every new portion of American Pie Presents such as The Naked Mile and Beta House, which are a million miles away from the originals it shares its name with, are more like a soft core pornography than the teen, gross out comedies that proceeded it. Another example of when a film went too far and just seemed criminal was Observe and Report as Seth Rogen has sex with an almost unconscious, unconsensual Anna Faris. This has been deemed by critics as just pure rape and its asks some serious questions of the film, which is pretty awful, and its director Jody Hill who was trying to make a Taxi Driver tribute but ended up making a great big mess. You have to be very careful with scenes like this in a comedy film.
Nerds is a great film though and a comedy classic and even if it is never remade I could easily enjoy it as a film in its own right. Its inspired many films I love today and its surely helped to the emergence of the nerd underclass that dominates so much of culture. It cannot be taken too seriously and although it is a film very much of its own time it still offers a lot to the viewer.