Some time in August the summer releases intended for the adolescent market begin to look like teenagers themselves. They lollygag around in aimless groups on Main Street and at the shopping mall, languidly pushing and shoving at one another, vaguely annoying to the adults passing by. It's nothing to call the police about, but one does hurry on past.
Anyone who stops to look closely can always spot one kid who seems to hold himself apart from the crowd. There is just something about him: a shrewd look in the eye, a certain alertness in his carriage. This summer the movie analogy to that promising lad is called Real Genius.
This is entirely appropriate, for the movie's subject is superbrainy young people, non-nerd division. They have been recruited to a double-dome school at the M.I.T.-Caltech level by slick Professor Jerome Hathaway (William Atherton), who has an explain-it-all science show on TV and a Government contract to build a particularly unsavory laser-powered weapon. His students do all the hard work, while he glides, snakelike, through the corridors of power. Among his drones are Mitch (Gabe Jarret), an innocent 15-year-old prodigy; Kent (Robert Prescott), who is teacher's pet, half toady, half Gestapo agent; and a case Hathaway has burned out (Jonathan Gries) until the others recruit him for the climactic revenge plot.
This begins with wiring up Kent so that he thinks he is hearing a heaven-sent voice and ends with Hathaway gloriously hoist on his own laser beam. The path between those two points leads through farcical situations, but the Animal House spirit is not present in this academic grove. Real Genius, directed by Martha Coolidge and written by Neal Israel, Pat Proft and Peter Torokvei, is a smart, no-nonsense movie that may actually teach its prime audience a valuable lesson: the best retort to an intolerable situation is not necessarily a food fight. Better results, and more fun, come from rubbing a few brains briskly together. --By Richard SchickelYEAR OF THE DRAGON
With a thud heard round the movie world, Michael Cimino went straight from Oscar winner (The Deer Hunter) to studio wrecker (Heaven's Gate). Neither honor was deserved. Indeed, Heaven's Gate was the better film, with a certain suicidal grandeur about it, like a herd of buffalo stampeding toward a firing squad. United Artists took a $44 million bath on the film and within a year was absorbed by rival MGM. Now, in a delicious triple irony, Final Cut, a UA executive's memoir of the debacle, wins raves; Ted Turner agrees to buy MGM/UA; and the studio releases Cimino's new melodrama.
It probably serves everyone right that this one is the pits. Stanley White (Mickey Rourke, an impish altar-boy type with what looks like chalk dust in his hair to make him look middle-aged) is another of Cimino's righteous madmen, a police captain brought in to clean up New York City's Chinatown. It is an uphill battle, against inscrutable thugs, a silky tong lord (John Lone), a TV reporter (the incompetent actress Ariane) and preposterous dialogue by Cimino and Oliver Stone. Soporific when it is not offensive, Year of the Dragon may some day engender a confessional memoir from Dino De Laurentiis, who was gullible enough to produce this crime against film. He could call the book Final Klutz . --R.C.