Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985)
Boldly claiming to be the funniest sci-fi movie of the summer that Back to the Future, Real Genius, and Weird Science were released, My Science Project opens on a naval air base in 1957, where the wreckage of a UFO has been stored. Cut to 1985 and that same location is now a graveyard for retired aircraft, and it’s where teenage car nut Michael Harlan (John Stockwell) and teenage Michael Harlan nut Ellie Sawyer (Danielle von Zerneck) are snooping for parts for Michael’s science project. What could possibly go stupid?
I was excited to see this movie. No, really. It got terrible reviews (Leonard Maltin slapped it with “BOMB”), Dennis Hopper’s in it somewhere, and look at that ridiculous poster. Even if it’s bad, it’s gotta be ’80s Fun Bad, right?
Cougar from Top Gun and the Indian stereotype guy from Short Circuit? Totally ’80s!
Well, take my word: it’s not worth it. Anything you need to know about My Science Project, I’m going to tell you right here, and you can use the extra time to watch Serpico or White Chicks. For starters, most of the movie is just a build-up to its not-that-great-anyway climax. Michael needs to hand in a killer science project to his teacher, Dr. Bob Roberts (Dennis Hopper), or he might not graduate from high school. And because he doesn’t know what science is, he thinks handing in a Spencer Gifts plasma ball that he found at an aircraft boneyard constitutes doing an experiment.
“Me not understand things that not cars.”
Dubbed “the gizmo,” the dorm decoration staple appears to be some kind of alien technology that warps the fabric of space and time. When hooked up to a car battery, it zaps Greek vases and battle axes and other historical tchotchkes into the room. When given access to a wall socket, it zaps Dennis Hopper most definitely out of the room.
Dennis probably wondered why they didn’t add any special effects to this scene.
Terrified at what might happen if the gizmo eats all the power from the plant, they… race the electricity. They can, you know, see it traveling through the wires or something, so they blow up some telephone poles and cheer. Then they go back to the school and discover that time got all funky and now the hallways are full of Neanderthals, gladiators, and the Viet Cong…
…which they proceed to senselessly murder one-by-one without any regard for human life or the course of history.
Boys will be boys!
John Stockwell is just your average high school protagonist. A bit more of a meathead than, say, the nerds of Weird Science, but still relatable to any John Q. Eightieskid.
You Top Gun fans may not recognize him without all the sweat.
Fisher Stevens as Vince… oh, where to begin? I guess he did the best he could with what the script gave him to work with; namely, a horny Italian über-stereotype that pushes kids into bushes after stealing their money and calls everybody “faggot” like it was going out of style.
Wait, it was. It did. Jesus, how was that ever in style?
He may be the hero’s best bud, but he acts like the bully in any other movie.
Speaking of the sort of people Fisher Stevens’s character would knife in an alleyway, did you know nerds came in exactly one flavor in the 1980s? Raphael Sbarge and Danielle von Zerneck play the dorks that make loser Michael look cool by comparison. And yes, the girl ditches her glasses and was totally a babe all along.
I think we just won ’80s Movie Bingo.
Dennis Hopper, sure, he’s fun, but not the sort of fun you can’t see in countless other movies towards the end of his career. You hear “aging flower child science teacher,” you think Dennis Hopper, you get Dennis Hopper.
I’m going to guess this wasn’t scripted.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Have you seen Ghostbusters? Pretty much that.
And it don’t look good.
Also, they made a rubber puppet of Dennis Hopper so he could could get sucked into the gizmo, but they decided to only show it for a second due to its unfortunate lack of resemblance to an actor named Dennis Hopper.
They went with “butt baby of W.C. Fields and Nicolas Cage.”
I can’t get over how stupid the scene where they “race the electricity” is, but I suppose Back to the Future is guilty of the same “slow lightning” effect. Still, it looks really goofy, especially with the kids shouting, “Go! Go! Go!”
“Speed up! Sorry, I mean, uh, rate up?”
And now, the main reason I was excited for this movie… dinosaur in the gymnasium??? Rad! Let’s see this bad boy–
- In a bit of foreshadowing, The Time Machine is playing on a TV in Michael’s home. Unfortunately, the camera does not zoom in on it and stay there.
- Supposedly My Science Project was renamed Time Busters in Sweden. Obviously, this was to capitalize on the immense popularity of ’80s box office smashes Jurassic Park and The NeverEnding Story.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
When Michael and Vince try to explain to Sherman what the gizmo does, Sherman highly doubts such a device could function without unleashing enormous amounts of power, which he cackles about like a fucking psycho:
“Earth’s energy field would go crazy. A chain reaction could start.
Weather could change. AND BOOM! YOU’RE ALL COSMIC DUST!”
This feels like the kind of movie that someone would call satire to get out of admitting that it’s a horribly violent, thoroughly stupid train wreck. I’m no prude; I love violence when it has a purpose in the story, but these bloodthirsty shits go around bashing in skulls with locker doors just because a confused soldier doesn’t know when the fuck he is. You can’t really play the self-defense card when you’re gunning people down with a grin on your face. And calling everybody a “faggot.” Wait a minute, it all makes sense… it’s a satire of modern gamers!
No, but really, it’s just a bad movie.
LATER THIS WEEK:
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.