Genius is part of a long line of great Disney movies on the ice. I don’t know why this company is so good with hockey and skating, but they are. The DCOM was directed by Rod Daniel, who also directed Alley Cats Strike. Credited writers are Jon Rieck, Jim Lincoln, and Dan Studney. Trevor Morgan plays Charlie Boyle, a boy genius who is accepted into Ivy League universities for physics. He turns down Harvard to go to “Northern University” so that he can discover gravitons and manipulate gravity with Dr. Krickstein in a lab, where ice from the hockey rink cools the particle accelerator. “Science and hockey, my two favorite things in the world are in the same building!” Charlie cutely says. His dad drives a zamboni.
I struggle with the setup of this movie because there’s just no way a 13-year-old is rolling up to a dormitory with a duffle bag and no help moving in from his parents. They never come visit him and don’t seem to have anyone supervising him. This is college, not boarding school! The kid is supposed to stay with these extras who look like they’re 30?? And they’re not nice to him for most of the movie… Rant over. Now, here’s what I like about the film.
Disney Channel shows us kids trying to figure out who they are. That is the epitome of Charlie’s life. He knows he’s smart and has great potential, but he sees a pretty girl named Claire (Emmy Rossum) and questions everything. Charlie thinks he’s not enough for her as he is, so he invents a second persona, Chaz Anthony. While Charlie studies and even teaches at the university, Chaz enrolls in middle school and makes “class clown” his biggest personality trait. Claire is noticing him for all the wrong reasons. He builds a fancy remote control to make a skeleton dance in class (with hilarious ’99 CGI), he smarts off to his teachers, he has all the guys thinking he’s the big man on campus. But then Chaz has to rush back to college to be genius Charlie. I like this interesting manifestation of the struggle many tweens face, trying to find themselves and their voice around others (often while discovering romantic feelings for the first time). Charlie here is buying his new girl a Backstreet Boys CD, but he has another life to deal with academically.
As Charlie navigates his complicated facts of life, the two worlds are dangerously close together. Though he disguises himself when his school pals come to hear him speak at the university, Charlie can’t hide forever. Claire discovers his lie during a big hockey game at the college — her dad is the coach, and Charlie’s lab is right under the rink. Coincidentally, his experiments burst through the ice and ruin a game that Northern probably would have won. Claire is upset and says she never wants to see him again. Alas, all DCOMs must reach a happy end. The tween lovebirds get back together and kind of help the hockey team win another big game by cheating. Charlie and Claire use their gravitons to create some kind of a magnetic field that will make the opponents float above the ice and mirror their every action. After the big win, Claire and Charlie end the movie kissing while levitating. Honestly, this is a nice hint of the sci-fi flair the channel had going on back then. Cute movie, sweet moments, especially that part when Claire is talking about her mom figure-skating. Check this one out on Disney+ for a fun winter afternoon.