History has been good to Revenge of the Nerds. Uncommonly good, really. Impossibly good.
In many ways, it's hard to figure out exactly why. It's not, on the surface, particularly well made. It doesn't feature an exceptional amount of skin. Nor is it even really all that funny. It even has Ted McGinley in it. But it's about nerds, and for better or worse, that's a subculture that doesn't easily let go of its icons. Especially pioneering ones, like this film.
Watching Revenge again after all these years, I'd forgotten how mind-numbingly simplistic the movie is. There's just not much to it. Freshman college nerds lose their dorm rooms, nerds build their own frat house (and join the heretofore all-black Lambda Lambda Lambda), and nerds get picked on by the jock frat house (Alpha Beta). It culminates in a series of events of geeks vs. nerds to see who will gain control of the college's judiciary system in what I can only describe as a kind of Circus of the Stars-like series of events. In a stroke of screenwriting genius, one of the nerds ends up with the head Alpha Beta's girlfriend.
The film has surprisingly impressive casting. Anthony Edwards quickly realized he was above this material (and didn't return for any of the three sequels), but Timothy Busfield, Curtis Armstrong (to be forever known as "Booger"), Michelle Meyrink, and David Wohl all do work above and beyond the call of duty here. Throw in young John Goodman and James Cromwell and you might think you're watching a movie with more than an $8 million budget.
Nerds went on to earn $40 million at the box office and has enjoyed periodic revivals of popularity (most recently when American Splendor made the film a major plot point). It also spawned the modern form of the David vs. Goliath movie, where impossible odds are overcome, with ostensibly hilarious consequences along the way. For that, the film should be honored, but on its merits, Revenge is a questionable classic at best.
A new DVD edition includes deleted scenes, commentary track, a featurette about nerddom, and the pilot for an aborted Revenge of the Nerds TV series.