Update - I would like to rate this film higher, I rated it low for the DVD but the website would not let me fix the rating. The movie itself is 4 stars. DVD review 1 star - At the time I review this, the DVD release by Disney left a lot to be desired. So I recommended you save your VHS copy if you were thinking of upgrading until they release a better copy later. Where are the extras, theatrical trailers, behind the scenes, anything?
FILM Review 4 stars - This is the first in a series of 3 movies about a great group of students at the fictional Medfield College, led by the likable Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell). The sequels are "Now You See him, Now You Don't" and my favorite, "The Strongest Man in the World". They were always at odds with the bumbling Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn), who was determined that the kids are up to no good. In this story, the school is in financial trouble, running out of cash. The students and Professor Quigley, (William Schallert), talk a philanthropist businessman (Cesar Romero) into donating a computer to their school, they have no idea he is a criminal boss looking for a place to get rid of it. Then an accident in the lab joins a new computers memory bank into the human mind of student Dexter, making him super intelligent. Soon he is a star, and Dexter's new celebrity status takes him all over the world, even to the United Nations. He is fawned over everywhere he goes, lavished with praise and attention. Of course this makes him start to ignore his friends, but he finally figures out that people are just using him and comes back home to help the school by winning money on a college academic quiz show series where he can win the money to save the school. While they win nearly every game, the bumbling Dean of Medfield really wants to beat his old rival, the Dean of another college. Dexter rolls off every answer with no effort, until a certain question triggers a computer-like response, with Dexter rolling off a series of numbers in an automaton-like trance. Turns out these numbers are from a criminal betting ring that had used the computer at one time. The criminal boss figures out he is at risk and makes Dexter disappear, and his old friend have to try to rescue him. This is a fun family film, with a good storyline full of laughs but not in the slapstick pratfalls that many Walt Disney movies had at the time. It has a lot of heart, with nice pacing and is never boring. Great animated opening title sequence with the catchy title song.
TRIVIA & BEHIND THE SCENES: Directed by Robert Butler. This movie was originally planned for television and so it was filmed in full-screen, but the end product turned out better than they hoped and the studio released it in theatres. It was hugely popular with young people. This movie series helped to make Kurt Russell a big name in Hollywood, this was his 4th Disney theatrical film in addition to his Disney TV work. Kids today would be amazed to see that the computer in the movie practically fills a whole room, but probably lacked the computing power and memory of today's laptops. The original movie poster promoting the film had the tag line, "Programmed for Laughs". Kurt Russell performed for a 45 record of the title song in 1969. By the way, "Medfield College" was also the name of the college in a previous Disney film, "The Absent-Minded professor", it's sequel "Son of Flubber", and the modern Robin Williams version "Flubber". Originally released to theaters in December 31, 1969, it runs 91 minutes long. It aired in two parts on the "Wonderful World of Disney", on September 17, and 24, 1972, and re-aired in 1980. It was broadcast as a 2 hour movie in 1977. First released on video in 1985.