Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Great concept, terrible execution is what I will say about director Timothy Chey’s faith based film ‘The Genius Club’. Any movie that consists of a bunch of people sitting around a table for two hours talking had better A) have great actors acting greatly and B) have killer interesting dialog and C) the editing better be drum tight. ‘Twelve Angry Men’ comes to mind or perhaps the HBO film from a few years back ‘Conspiracy’. Now I don’t have anything but mad love for Stephen Baldwin and Jack Scalia, crazy mad love… but when those two cats are pretty much the best actors in your production that absolutely hinges on great acting, Tom Sizemore excepted since he’s not sitting around the table, then I think we have problems.

So say you’re sitting around minding your own business, say doing something like beating MIT super rocket engineers in chess in three moves in between delivering Pizza’s, just like my man Rory (Stephen Baldwin) was doing when a dude named Brian (Huntley Ritter) from homeland security shows up out of the blue, throws you into one of those stretch black Yukon’s they like to cruise around in and takes you to some large underground hideaway where you meet the President of the United States (Scalia) and six other people.

These people, in addition to our white male pizza delivery man, consist of Julia (Carol Abney), a selfish angry white female casino operator, Jose (Matt Delgado) the Hispanic dude who also happens to be a multi millionaire baseball player, Ally (Tricia Helfer) the dying, cancer stricken canvas artist and Tatiana (Paula Jai Parker) our African American sister with the asthma problem who makes her money as some kind of corporate chemist. We also have the preeminent economist of our time in Asian Dude Professor Lee (Phillip Moon) and finally we have Jacob (Jacob Bonnema), who is the Theology Dude who used to be the corporate Lawyer dude before a change took place

deep within. What does this group of racially and culturally diverse people have in common? They made the mistake of taking some online IQ test and have been deemed among the smartest people in the United States. Trust me when I tell you this isn’t a good thing.

You see an evil crazed terrorist named Armand (Sizemore) has planted an atomic bomb right near the White House and from his remote Closed Circuit location will detonate it if these geniuses can’t answer his questions on how to solve the world’s problems, score a thousand points  on this crazy test he has devised, and save the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent people. And they have roughly six hours to pull this off. So with the President presiding over our geniuses as the ring master, Brian the homeland security dude as the lifeline so to speak, with Armand as Alec Trebek and our geniuses as the contestants, they must answer a series of obscure, completely subjective questions to the satisfaction of a crazed detonator holding lunatic or everything goes kabluey. THIS is Jeopardy.

So we’ve observed that this is the type of film that really calls for a set of top notch actors, which this film doesn’t really have but the acting in the movie isn’t terrible. Except for maybe a couple of dudes. What would’ve helped these actors considerably is a much better, much tighter edit. It has often been said that a director should never edit his own film. He or she can be in the room, but the scissors have to be given to someone else. Writer / Director Timothy Chey, who is probably a genius in real life taking into account his Harvard education and the fact that he is a USC film school graduate should know this as well as anybody since it would be almost impossible to shoot something that is obviously so close to your heart and competently edit it. The movie is far too long, there isn’t enough substance to support this length and lot of junk that probably should’ve been left on the cutting room floor didn’t because the director obviously didn’t have the heart to edit it out. Ultimately that’s the number one thing that ‘The Genius Club’ really needed.

Since the movie didn’t get that what we have is a ton of hokey dialog strewn in with some sharp observations. I have an IQ that hovers around 7 and even I know why toner cartridges cost so much and that there’s no profit in cure. The bulk of the questions for our geniuses, who never really do anything of note to demonstrate this intelligence, are simply opinion based. Quite honestly who really needs an IQ of 220 to form an opinion of how one would make the world a better place? But some of the discussions were interesting and had a more crisp flow to them which kept ‘Genius Club’ from being a completely tedious exercise, but again there simply weren’t enough of these kinds of discussions to support the lengthy running time of the movie.

So with ‘Genius Club’ you have a concept that does have some merit and a sprinkling of crisp dialog which raises some interesting compelling issues, that is unfortunately saddled by a movie that is technically deficient, has some shaky acting and desperately needed to have about thirty or so minutes shaved off it’s running time.

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