The ‘Nerds’ Franchise Starts Spiraling With ‘II’

There are only two possibilities for a sequel: it can be better than the first movie, or it can be worse – and the vast majority of them are worse. There’s no shame in that. Making a film is a difficult thing to do. But the reasons for a movie’s worst (or, sometimes, best) often tell us a lot about the franchise.

This is precisely the case of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradisewhich debuted on July 10, 1987. The original revenge of the nerds, from 1984, had been a surprise hit, grossing some $40 million against an $8 million budget. Beyond that, however, it put a pin in a while.

By the mid-1980s, American men’s pop culture had developed a strong frat boy vibe with a pastel sweater. He had supplanted the scruffy man with the hairy chest, mustache and borderline 70s with a blonde, blue-eyed prep who was just as comfortable cruising up the Charles River in his racing hull as he was canoodating in a Manhattan bar after a day of working as a stockbroker.

It also created a reaction, of course. A series of films quickly emerged in which people alienated by this ideal of shape, tan and bright smile teamed up to prove that outsiders could do it just as well and be more human in the process. revenge of the nerds set the pattern, with its story of a group of nerds who want to start a college fraternity but must overcome a group of annoying, preppy frat-bros before they can.

In the process, he took an established pattern and gave it a specific, heroic twist. In predecessors like animal house Where Caddyshack, the protagonists were just not cool. In revenge of the nerds, they were given specific identifiers: nonsensical laughter, heavy-rimmed glasses repaired with duct tape, pocket protectors, inability to give high-fives, and a constant interest in subjects that were then considered to signify unmanliness, like computers.

Watch the Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise Trailer

The film was so successful that it immediately spawned a host of imitators, like weird science and true genius. But it also helped inject a new idea into the culture: It might be cool to be a jerk. It was a slow process – the ultimate integration of nerd culture, as evidenced by something like the success of The Big Bang Theorywas still 20 years in the future – but it was already seeping into every corner of the zeitgeist.

In late 1985 Nerds Candy was named “Candy of the Year” by the National Candy Wholesalers Association, and the following year Huey Lewis and the News had a hit with “Hip to be Square”. In 1987, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise was released, intended to ride what was becoming a profitable wave.

The story of this film parallels that of the first. The nerds established their fraternity as the Lambda Lambda Lambda chapter in the previous film and now travel to Fort Lauderdale during spring break to attend a fraternity conference. Unfortunately, their old enemies the Alpha Betas are also there and have concocted a plan to prevent the Tri-Lams from being fully recognized. First they torment the nerds by getting them kicked out of their hotel, then they trick them with a vaguely “Native American” ritual and have them run through a swamp in their underwear.

The nerds fight back – trying to prove their worth by performing a rock rap song at a talent show – but soon find themselves first arrested and jailed, then stranded on a desert island. (Their main executioner Alpha Beta, named Ogre, is also there and he ends up switching sides and becoming a nerd.) In the end, they find an amphibious assault vehicle belonging to the Cuban army and make a triumphant appearance and militarist to brotherhood. conference, bringing everyone together once and for all.

Watch the nerds rap/rock in ‘Revenge of the Nerds II’

Although this plot is ridiculous, it is not really the problem of the film. Nor is the cast, which is mostly intact since the first film, with one major exception. Robert Carradine (from the famous acting family) is back as Lewis Skolnick, Curtis Armstrong reappears as “Booger”, Donald Gibb plays Ogre again, and even the venerable James Cromwell is reprising his father role. of Lewis.

The exception is Anthony Edwards, who had starred in the first film alongside Carradine as Gilbert Lowe, but chose not to feature prominently in the sequel. (His appearance in Superior gun from 1986 may have something to do with it.) Edwards’ sweet earnestness is greatly missed. Without her constant influence and the emotional focus of her friendship with Lewis, the film feels almost immediately stale.

This flatness permeates much of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, which seems to trade its underdog comedy for overused tropes, and turn what was once a startling worldview into something of an inside joke. This is evident in the opening, which finds a pocket protector flying through space, followed by scrolling text in a star wars tribute. It’s a flat gag, already overused in 1987, when George Lucas’ masterpiece was ten years old.

Sadly, this lines up with most of the film’s other gags, from the ramshackle hotel the nerds inhabit, to the rather barbaric parody of the Seminole Indians, to the Groovesmilitary style bit at the end. Three years after the first film, the ugly specter of the cliché is already pointing the tip of its nose.

the original revenge of the nerds is by no means a great film, although it has developed a sort of cult following. (The less said about its view of women and minorities, the better.) At the same time, however, part of the secret to its success is that the film had a certain freshness to it, and revenge of the nerds wore her heart on her sleeve. Sadly, the sequel feels like a pale imitation: what was once a sly statement of anti-mainstream sentiment was already being co-opted by the culture it was once trying to overthrow.

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