I.Q. is your standard mid-90’s romantic comedy, a quirky aspiring mathematician Catherine Boyd (Meg Ryan) is engaged to the stuffy sociopath scientist James Moreland (Stephen Fry) who is all wrong for her. Luckily she runs into the science obsessed yet uneducated town mechanic Ed Walters (Tim Robbins) who steals her away from the uptight celibate . Also Catherine’s uncle is Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau), the oldest looking man who had ever lived) and he and a gaggle of his old scientist buddies decide to help Ed win over Catherine by pretending to invent cold fusion, lying to the president, and instigating the space race.
The movie starts and the audience is immediately clued in to the fact that Catherine isn’t happy with her sex life. How do we know this? Because the movie takes every single opportunity in the first 15 minutes to show us just how goddamn horny she is, and how James is much more interested in electrocuting rat testicles than lying with his betrothed. This whole ordeal culminates at a fancy dinner party where Catherine describes her ideal honeymoon location as a slide where the water “Licks you all over” which is of course accompanied by a genuinely creepy self hug and shudder. James quickly whisks her away the next room to ask if she could maybe cool it on the licking talk for one polite work dinner. She of course demands he sleep with her right then and there and James refuses with the kind of righteous indignation reserved for only the most pompous of upper crust British elite. Luckily for the frustrated Boyd, the duo’s fancy fire engine red car breaks down and they have to pull into Bob Rosetti’s (A criminally under-utilized Tony Shalhoub) auto shop where the local popular science reading heartthrob Ed can take a break to teach Catherine a thing or two about…..car repair.
Ed of course immediately falls head over heels in love with Catherine because time is an imaginary construct, and begins to set his plan of seduction in motion. This is where Albert Einstein finally comes into play. Einstein is a simple man who likes to spend his days with his buddies arguing about scientific theory, getting badminton equipment stuck in trees, and being genuinely and actively worried about Catherine’s sex life. So you can imagine the relief these guys feel when our hunky hero Ed shows up on their doorstep ready to profess his love to the engaged woman he briefly met as a customer at his place of employment a few hours ago. Ed and Albert bond over their shared love of science, Catherine, Ed’s ability to climb trees to collect lost badminton equipment, and sick motorcycle jumps.
Eventually the brain-trust decides the only way to help Ed is to make Catherine question her own intelligence, and make Ed look like a certified genius with a flawed theory for cold fusion. The theory is of course picked up by the new jersey council of science or whatever for a presentation in five days, which ignites the interest of President Eisenhower, and draws out claims from the Russians that they will have working cold fusion within 6 months. How does the greatest collection of scientific minds in the world tackle the problem of worldwide attention on a flawed theory? By having a dress up costume montage for Ed to make him look smart.
I.Q is the perfect blend of earnest nonsense to make what I consider to be an enjoyable film. Taking a tired and formulaic romantic comedy plot and throwing in Albert Einstein is definitely enough to make an enjoyable hour and a half, but there’s a reason this movie has faded into obscurity. Robbins lacks the effortless charisma of a Tom Hanks type, and comes across as bland and forgettable in a movie filled much stronger character choices, and the movie ignores more creative direction in favor of the tried and true rom-com formula.
The cast of old men scientists that assist Einstein are the true highlight of the film, and a delight to anyone who enjoys some quality old man bickering. Although I would have preferred if Matthau had gone with more of his wacky comic persona instead of the much smaller, and “realistic” way he took the character.
Ryan is infinitely charming as the frustrated Boyd, but it would have been nice if they had given her more to do than worry about which man to choose. The true star of the picture though is Stephen Fry’s psychotic psychologist James Moreland, who spends the film torturing both people and animals for very poorly defined reasons in a smarmy fashion that only Fry could really bring us.
All in all I.Q is a mediocre film elevated by bizarre plot choices and a great cast. It’s paced well and could be a great WTF watch with buddies and a few beers, but if you’re looking for a top notch 90’s romantic comedy Meg Ryan has other titles in her catalog you should check out first. Though if you want a movie where Albert Einstein creepily says wahoo to himself as he watches his niece hardcore make out with a guy, then this is the picture for you. I would give it 2.5 stars.