Honestly, I’m just not sure where to begin here. There’s just too much to cover.
I suppose we could start with the premise of “The Genius Club,” just so you have a frame of reference: A domestic terrorist gathers a group of the country’s highest IQs and gives them just a few hours to solve the world’s problems before he detonates a one-megaton nuke in Washington, D.C. — the sort of movie-of-the-week idea that rarely gets made anymore.
I could go on to point out that none of these so-called geniuses exhibits any perceptible genius, other than their ability to accurately attribute each other’s quotes and reference ideas found in any Philosophy 101 textbook. Stephen Baldwin is supposedly the smartest of them all, by the way, and I hope that sets the tone for you. As for solving the world’s problems, well, it’s more like a quiz show.
We’re only grazing the epidermis here — the execution gets much, much worse. You’ve got ridiculously unrealistic computers, dialogue that ranges from wooden to hilarious, non-sequitur flashbacks, an FBI agent who can accurately identify uranium-235 using only a flashlight and a computer-generated list of ostensibly random passwords that are actually the lyrics to Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” (I am not making this up). And then it gets bad.
The director, Timothy A. Chey, also has the film’s screen writing credit, but I’d like to state for the record that this is a horrible, horrible lie. Clearly Chey traveled to the Springfield city dump, dug up the notebooks that I spent my sophomore year of college filling with narcissistic, pseudo-philosophical bullshit and adapted them for the screen. The film’s a remarkable achievement, because it’s frankly awful, but not the most awful movie I’ve ever seen — and yet watching it was a memorably funny experience. It’s the sort of film that my friends and I like to watch while drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and adding our own commentary.
Best line of dialogue perhaps ever: In the film’s emotional climax, Stephen Baldwin reports that his mother’s last words were to tell him to cut his hair. His reaction? “I thought, one day, I will. When there’s justice.”
Both Tom Sizemore and Tricia Helfer get bonus points for acting here: Sizemore rises above the writing by taking his villain down into meth-fueled train wreck territory and Helfer gives an understated and earnest performance that somehow obscures just how bad her lines are.
Perhaps this criticism’s too harsh. “The Genius Club” really isn’t so much a movie as it is Christian outreach via film, a class of filmmaking more renowned for its heartfelt sincerity than its quality. However, that’s ultimately the point: Unintentional comedy is really the only draw for non-believers here — not art, and certainly not philosophy.
— Matthew Reed