The film begins with best friends Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine
), and Gilbert Lowell (Anthony Edwards
), being driven by Lewis's Dad (James Cromwell
) to their chosen college, Adams. Both Lewis and his father have the same nerdy laugh. There are some sight gags as Lewis and Gilbert carry a heavy chest across campus to their dorm. They get only a day to enjoy their room as that evening the Alpha-Betas accidentally burn down their frat house by breathing fireballs with 180 proof alcohol.
Football coach Harris (John Goodman
) a ruthless bully who thinks might makes right, gives his team permission to literally throw the freshmen out in the street while their house is being rebuilt. The dispossessed are set-up on cots in the school gym, but the ranks of gymnasium dwellers are rapidly pruned because they are allowed to apply for fraternities, and the presumably popular ones get in and move to their new houses. Our heroes Lewis and Gilbert ask some sorority girls (The "Pi's", female equivalents of the Alpha Betas) what frat to join, and they are told to join Alpha Beta by Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery
). Alpha Beta is told they are coming, and are coerced into having sex with a sheep, and they are sent back to the gym all the worse for wear.
After a few days only the nerdiest of the nerdy are left in the gym and they go scouting the town for a place to live. The apartment hunt gives an opportunity for more gags. Eventually, Lewis locates a classic beat-up antebellum-style house with busted balcony, hanging front door and weed-filled yard. There follows a fast-forward sequence in which they make their abode a passable place and life begins to become good for the nerds.
The next shot is fired by the Alpha-Betas who throw a rock through the window. The nerds (as they generally are referred to in the movie as a group) report the Alpha-Betas to the local police, who for some reason cannot do anything about this minor crime. The police recommend the "Greek Council". The President of the Greek Council is Stan Gable (Ted McGinley
) the football captain and preppy "beautiful person" who is the chief villain in the film. The nerds are told they cannot file a complaint because they are not affiliated with a national fraternity, which motivates them of course to seek a national fraternity. After 29 rejection letters, they are given an audience by the one house to which they forgot to send a picture, Lambda, Lambda, Lambda (the "Tri-Lambs"). Mr. U.N. Jefferson, president of the national TriLams (Bernie Casey
) wants to turn them down, because "you're nerds", but Arnold Poindexter (Timothy Busfield
) reads him his own bylaws which say that ANY group that applies gets a 60-day trial period. During this period the Tri-Lams work hard to be cool, culminating in a party, to which Mr. Jefferson is invited.
While the Tri-Lams generally have poor luck with women, Gilbert rapidly finds a girlfriend in the computer lab. In the computer lab we are treated to some vintage orange plasma-display terminals running BASIC, on which Gilbert somehow manages to conjure up some vector-graphic sketches of himself and his (about to be) girlfriend Judy (Michelle Meyrink
), thus winning her heart.
As the big party approaches, only Gilbert has a date. The Pis try to torture the TriLams by promising to be their dates. They do a lovely little number with candles and matching flouncy dresses in which they serenade their potential beaus. Of course they do not show up at the party. Judy saves the day by inviting her sorority girls, the Omega Mu (the "Moo's" -- yes, more lowbrow humor. The girls are just chunky enough for that bit of cruelty to be understandable). The party looks grim, and we are shown a ticking clock as uncomfortable moment after moment passes.
About an hour in Booger (Curtis Armstrong
) breaks out some very fat joints, and suddenly everyone relaxes. The drug humor is what one would expect. Many of the nerds and Mu's are first timers, but they take to it with enthusiasm. Mr. Jefferson and his assistant also partake of the herb, and start to appreciate their new applicants. Things are winding down after a fine party when the Pi's execute their plan. They do not show up, but they send pigs in their stead. They and the Alpha Betas then taunt the nerds from a large flat-bed truck (full of hay and pigs). Gilbert says the deed must be avenged.
Stage one is a panty raid on the Pi's,
in which several are caught dressing or showering. Also, 14-year-old whiz kid Harold Wormser (Andrew Cassese
) plants a number
of remote controlled cameras around the girl's dorm, and the nerds stay up all night
observing girls in various stages of undress.
Stage two is shorter, the jockstraps of the Alpha-Betas are all treated with an oil which causes serious burning sensations on the parts it touches. We see the entire football team out on the field doing a little dance.
The nerds continue to be persecuted, a sign is burned on their lawn. Now they are a fraternity, but they still can get no justice because Stan, the President of the Greek Council, is their enemy. Conveniently, the President of the Greek council is chosen by the winner of the previous years Greek Homecoming Festival.
The festival consists of some athletic events, a charity fund-raiser, and a skit competition. The Tri-Lams win the first athletic event, a 20 lap race on tricycles which requires the drinking of 20 cans of beer (one per lap). They win because Wormser comes up with Trimethylene? another bit of science nonsense which is said to "completely neutralize the affects of alcohol". The driver for the nerds is Toshiro Takashi (Brian Tochi
). He is the only person not to pass out before the finish line. The Tri-Lams lose some other athletic events, as you would expect, to the Alpha-Betas. Black, gay, nerd and aerobics enthusiast Lamar Latrell (Larry B. Scott
) does win the Javelin toss owing to some mystery aerodynamics by Wormser.
When it comes to the carnival fundraisers, the Betas and the Pis sell kisses, but the TriLams raise more money than they by selling pies. The secret ingredient turns out to be a nice picture of Betty's boobs at the bottom of every dish, presumably taken with the clandestine videocams. Betty gets hot and bothered by all the kissing and propositions her boyfriend Stan, who rebuffs her. Conveniently, the kissing was being done in costume, so Lewis takes Stan's costume and finds Betty in the Moon Room, a dark room full of air mattresses. Thinking it's Stan, she has sex with Lewis, who keeps the mask on. When Lewis unmasks himself after doing the deed, Betty is surprised by his prowess, and decides to make him his girlfriend.
The final event is the skit show. The TriLams win again by doing a fairly cool punk-ish number. Another imDB member pointed out that if you listen to Billy Idols "Flesh for Fantasy" (1983) the beginning guitar part out of that song is the same as the music the nerds played on stage, the hand actions clapping and guitar solo is exactly the same from Idols video of the same time period.
The TriLams win! Gilbert becomes next Greek Council President and ... the Alpha Beta's burn down their house. After a brief "Oh woe is nerds" moment, Gilbert has the stones to take on the Alpha Betas at the homecoming pep rally. He is at first beaten up, but then the national Lambda's show up -- many fit, tall, black, men, looking kind of super-fly and they command he be unhanded. He gets to take the microphone and say he is proud to be a nerd and ask other nerds to join him. Lewis, then Betty, then hundreds of alums and others join in. Emboldened, Dean Ulich orders the Alphas to rebuild the Lambda house. The Lambdas will sleep in the Alpha house, while the Alphas can sleep in the gym.