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  My Science Project Let's Do The Time Warp AgainBuy this film here.
Year: 1985
Director: Jonathan R. Betuel
Stars: John Stockwell, Danielle Von Zerneck, Fisher Stevens, Raphael Sbarge, Dennis Hopper, Richard Masur, Barry Corbin, Ann Wedgeworth, Candace Silvers, Beau Dremann, Michael Berryman, Al Leong
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1957 a flying saucer from outer space crashed in the desert, and the military brought it to a top secret base to dismantle it. Decades later, in 1985, Kit Carson High School student Mike Harlan (John Stockwell) is having a bad day when his science teacher Bob (Dennis Hopper) tells him he won't get his diploma if he doesn't produce a project soon, and his girlfriend dumps him because he's more interested in working on cars. Mike decides to find his own project by investigating the old, now-abandoned military base for something that might fit the bill, and he stumbles across more than he bargained for...

Scripted by the director, Jonathan R. Betuel, My Science Project starts off like a typical teen movie of the eighties, and gradually metamorphoses into a teen version of Ghostbusters, only with flying saucer technology replacing the Lovecraft-style supernatural forces of that film. Rather than a wisecracking Bill Murray clone, Stockwell portrays a nice but slightly dim mechanic who is asked out on a date by the bookish Ellie (Danielle Von Zerneck) so that she won't be the class "spinster" for that year, but Mike's idea of a date is to take her to the military base and have her hold the torch while he scrabbles around in a long-forgotten fall-out shelter.

What he uncovers is a gizmo that glows with a purple light and fizzes with lightning bolts when it's put near anything electrical, as it draws power from it. Have no fear that there will be no wisecracking, however, because the comedian role is taken by Fisher Stevens as Vince, Mike's best friend, who has a lion's share of the smartass lines and pop culture references ("Ay, chill out, Mr Spock!", etc). These three kids try to work out what the gizmo is for, and turn to Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), a weasely nerd who explains that it's an engine that warps time and space, although how he knows that isn't explained. Perhaps he spends too much time watching films like this.

After bringing an Ancient Egyptian urn from the past into the present, the gizmo causes Mike some concern, so he shows it to Bob. Hopper is the highlight of this film, playing a survivor of the sixties, an "ex-Yippie" who tries to talk to the kids on their level, and sucks gas from a canister for a little high. When Ellie suggests informing the police, Bob panics, "The pigs! No pigs!" and embraces the possibilities of the alien device, only to be whisked away into the past when he gets too close to its light show. And that's just the start of the night's antics.

Although amiable enough, My Science Project lacks a real spark of invention that would capitalise on the novelty of it's big idea. The teen movie traditions are present and correct, with an awkwardly blooming love between Mike and Ellie, the school stereotypes and the wink to anti-establishment attitudes, but where the gizmo could have led these to interesting places, what you get is a school in the grip of a time warp.

After Ellie is knocked out dangerously close to the gizmo in the confusion, the three boys must save her by venturing through the corridors and meeting up with gladiators, Viet Cong, futuristic mutants and a fierce dinosaur, all of which they manage to kill off, in an uncharacteristically bloodthirsty development. The film may be diverting for eighties addicts, but it's mild entertainment for everyone else, although the effects are well handled. See it for Hopper, who even dresses up in his Easy Rider garb. Music by Peter Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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