Before it acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney's franchise dreams were a lot smaller. In the late sixties and early seventies, the House of Mouse released a series of family-friendly movies all set in one small, down-on-its-luck college. Among them is this particularly feel-good comedy now streaming on Disney+.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is a 1969 family comedy that is a product of its time from top to bottom. It begins with a stop-motion animated title sequence made to look "technological" and a theme song that fits the era to a tee:
"The computer wore tennis shoes and a twinkle in his eye, never met a groovier dude, an electric kind of guy."
The first scene sets the tone for the actual movie. The president of Medfield College, the same college where The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber took place, is arguing with the administration that the college can not afford to purchase one (1) computer. There's nostalgia, and there's realizing the extravagant technology they're arguing about is less advanced than the device you're using to read this.
In order to get the computer they so desire, the students take things into their own hands. Kurt Russell plays Dexter Riley, who convinces local businessman and secret crime lord A.J. Arno to donate an old computer to the college. While replacing a part, a shock accidentally uploads all the data and capabilities of the computer into Dexter — including the details of Arno's gambling ring.
What follows is a classic plot lifted from all manner of Annette Funicello movies. A teen has something an evil adult wants, and there's a series of schemes where the villain's henchman try and fail to obtain it while the teen goes about their business, in this case using his computer abilities to turn Medfield's academic bowl team.
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is the epitome of a time capsule movie. It's nostalgic plot centers around a nostalgic technology, prompting a host of nostalgic actions. Cesar Romero plays A.J. Arno with the same villainous camp he gave The Joker, and Kurt Russell delivers that impeccable Disney teen star energy that would be replicated decades after in Kirk Cameron, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and even the Sprouse twins.
It's not a groundbreaking movie, but that's the last thing you want to see in an old sci-fi Disney film. The plot is tried and true, the technology hilariously primitive, and the humor timelessly slapstick. It's a fun, wholesome retro film you can watch with the whole family, the platonic ideal of a Disney sci-fi film (sorry, Star Wars).
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is now streaming on Disney+.