The Superfluous Sequels Club has plenty of inductees in the crass comedy department alone ' Slap Shot, Caddyshack, Porky's, Major League, Meatballs and the most flagrant offender, Police Academy. A lesser-known but equally dubious candidate is the Revenge of the Nerds quadrilogy, primarily because the final two entries were made for television and about 17 people saw them. Fox has been generous enough to package all four in its new 'Atomic Wedgie Collection.â?� That the sequels are nigh unwatchable is hardly news; that the original continues to endure is a bit of a surprise.
When I saw Revenge of the Nerds in my early teens (Julia Montgomery's sorority-girl frame may have provided my first on-screen breast, not to mention rib cage), I was too young to appreciate the genuinely witty send-up of college stereotypes. At its best the film illuminates a cultural and Darwinian power struggle between the dominant jocks' aptly named 'Alpha Betaâ?� fraternity (led by Ted McGinley, the future Jefferson D'Arcy) and the meek geeks' just as apropos 'Lambda Lambda Lambdaâ?� frat. Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine are more than competent as leading men, and Jeff Kanew's direction brings humanism to a brazen script (even the pranks seem real-world feasible, unlike the ones in the sequels).
The rest of the movies are the kind of bargain-basement stinkers you'd find on Comedy Central at three in the morning, only effective when resorting to Revenge of the Nerds 1 hand-me-downs. The second installment, 1987's Nerds in Paradise, is marred by needlessly exorbitant production values and a ludicrous script that finds the Nerds breaking up a faux-Indian sacrifice and stumbling upon a cache of Bay of Pigs weaponry hidden in an island off the Florida coast. It's followed by The Next Generation, which rehashes the college culture war with a new crop of nerd freshman, while previous campus titan Carradine is now a nerd-repressing, gourmet-cooking douchebag with a Steven Seagal ponytail. McGinley is trotted out once again as the villain, and new characters like John Pinette's portly Brit and a South Korean Elvis impersonator (who also happens to edit the school paper!) provide little freshness to the exhausted debacle.
Any edge vicariously remaining from the first film has completely evaporated by the laugh-free fourth Revenge, Nerds in Love. Slovenly Booger (Curtis Armstrong) is getting married, and Carradine's Lewis is about to become a father. The sentimentality is at its most putrid here; like the third one, it ends with a speech full of South Park moralizing, just as phony but without the audience wink.
All the sequels arrive bare-bones ' who in these productions could possibly be proud enough to talk about them? ' but the original includes a funny and informative documentary about the film's making and legacy, filled with self-deprecating remembrances. It also contains the nadir of the entire collection: the pilot for the aborted Revenge of the Nerds sitcom, which rewrites the jokes from the movie so people with the IQ of a 3-year-old can understand them.