The Secret Lives of Dorks is the Jim Belushi of High-School Romantic Comedies


Freaks and Geeks was the first TV show to acknowledge what everyone with a high school diploma already knew: that there are deep taxonomies of nerds that defy the conventional, lazy stereotype of high-water pants and taped-together glasses. A high school population is a Venn diagram intersecting heavy metal nerds, academic nerds, sci-fi nerds, sports nerds, comedy nerds—any subject that inspires obsession has its socially awkward enthusiasts. The Secret Lives of Dorks, starring Jim Belushi, is, well, the Jim Belushi of high-school romantic comedies: indifferent, kind of exhausted. At one point, a jock actually tapes a “kick me” sign to the back of a cookie-cutter lady-Urkel. Gaelan Connell is Payton, a flamboyantly bespectacled nerd—son of Belushi, the school’s Ditka–obsessed football coach—in love with the head cheerleader, Carrie (Riley Voelkel). Because of course he is—it’s the Jim Belushi of teen comedy plots. To rebuff his advances, Carrie attempts to Emma–broker a romance between Payton and a fellow nerd, the unibrowed Samantha (Vanessa Marano). A cliché-littered script and the boring, infuriating shorthand of high school stereotypes squander the real charm and chemistry between these three actors. Director Salomé Breziner attempts to distinguish the movie with rapid-fire animated fantasy sequences, unfunny and badly drawn. At the end of the day, The Secret Lives of Dorks may be notable as probably the final film to feature sequences of texting via the Jim Belushi of mobile phones, the Motorola Razr.