Based on the real-life hijinks of students at the California Technical Institute, Real Genius is a likable, frothy entrant in the teen-comedy sweepstakes of the 1980s. Though not as edgy or commercially successful as some other films of its genre, notably Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Genius is a good companion to John Hughes's similarly pleasing teen pictures. The script is somewhat against the norm in focusing on college kids and not high schoolers, but the film isn't concerned with the usual collegiate clichés of sex, drinking, and partying. Director Martha Coolidge instead imbues the film with a healthy absurdity reminiscent of her influential 1983 teen flick, Valley Girl. Val Kilmer is memorably off-the-wall as the one genius with a perspective on life; he would more fully enter American consciousness the following year as Top Gun's antagonistic Iceman.