Brainpower on screen

By Beth Pinsker
November 18, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

If moviemakers can take one lesson away from the raging debate over race and IQ stirred by publication of The Bell Curve, it’s that generalizing about intelligence puts you on shaky ground. Luckily, Hollywood’s concept of mental acuity is already blurred — just ask rich smart dumb white guy Forrest Gump. On screen, fools are wise, geniuses are eccentric or tragic, and there aren’t enough blacks for a meaningful sample. Consider the hierarchy of holiday intellect below:

*Santa Claus (Miracle on 34th Street‘s Richard Attenborough) Besides speaking many tongues and making his way around the world in one night, this Santa can get the U.S. justice system to decide his fate on Christmas Eve. Estimated IQ: 242

*Albert Einstein (I.Q.‘s Walter Matthau) Sure he’s smart — he’s the smartest guy who ever tried to fix up his niece with a grease monkey. EIQ: 201

*Dorothy Parker (Mrs. Parker‘s Jennifer Jason Leigh) Some people can’t understand a word she says. But that’s not because she’s so clever, it’s because she’s so drunk. EIQ: 160

*Mag Singer (Safe Passage‘s Susan Sarandon) Amid a family crisis, this mother of seven can still run a paper route and start a career. No miracles of science here, just good sense, which puts her EIQ at 139, ahead of …

*Alex Hesse (Junior‘s Arnold Schwarzenegger) It takes a great scientist to get himself pregnant. Now, if only he would learn to change diapers. EIQ: 129

*Santa Claus (The Santa Clause‘s Tim Allen) Win your son’s affections by passing out billions of toys? Brilliant. EIQ: 102

*Kitty Potter (Pret-A-Porter‘s Kim Basinger) If this dim fashion reporter’s intellect had a human embodiment, it would be waif Kate Moss. EIQ: 91

*Harry Dunne (Dumb and Dumber‘s Jeff Daniels) At least he owns a van. On a cross-country quest, that’s handy. EIQ: 38

*Lloyd Christmas (Dumber‘s Jim Carrey) His brain is like a box of chocolates — all soft centers. EIQ: 37