My Science Project
|My Science Project|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan R. Betuel|
|Produced by||Jonathan Taplin|
|Written by||Jonathan R. Betuel|
|Music by||Peter Bernstein|
|Cinematography||David M. Walsh|
|Edited by||Carroll Timothy O'Meara|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|August 9, 1985|
My Science Project is an American 1985 comedy science fiction film directed by Jonathan R. Betuel. Although not performing as well, the movie follows on heels of other teen-sci-fi/comedy films released the same year, such as Back to the Future, Real Genius, and Weird Science.
The movie begins in 1957 with a scene of a United States military operation to secure a crashed UFO in a hangar bay. A man, (President Dwight D. Eisenhower; played by Robert Beer), enters to see the craft and simply orders his men to "get rid of it."
Fast-forwarding to 1985, a high school senior named Michael Harlan (John Stockwell), whose only interest is muscle cars, reluctantly searches for something to turn in for his final science class project. While on what his bookworm friend Ellie Sawyer (Danielle von Zerneck), thinks is a date, Michael breaks into a government aircraft boneyard and stumbles upon a hidden fallout shelter. There, he finds a glowing, plasma globe-like piece of equipment and grabs it just as a military guard approaches and chases him away.
The next day, Michael cleans up the device in auto shop class and unwittingly activates it where it begins drawing power from a nearby boombox. His friend Vince Latello (Fisher Stevens), tries to talk him out of attaching the device's "terminals" to an automotive battery whereupon the device emits a swirl of colorful energy that manifests into an Ancient Greek vase. As the two leave the auto shop for their next class, they soon realize they inexplicably lost two hours of time and missed their final science exam.
After a series of other strange happenings surrounding the machine, Michael takes the device, referred to as "the gizmo," to his ex-hippie science teacher Dr. Roberts (Dennis Hopper), who quickly realizes it is a portal to another dimension. While bathing in the cosmic energy of the gizmo and contemplating the wonders of the universe, Roberts suddenly warps away only leaving behind his peace symbol medallion. Michael tries to disconnect the machine from the power outlet, but is unable to. His only solution is to destroy the power lines leading to town before the warp spreads out of control.
Michael and Vince obtain dynamite from the backroom of a hardware store owned by Michael's father (Barry Corbin), and then race to outrun a wave of energy traveling along the power lines before it reaches the local power plant. They successfully blow up a tower, but upon returning to town are arrested for Dr. Roberts' disappearance. Michael calls Ellie and asks her to go to the school to retrieve the gizmo hoping to prove his innocence by showing it to the police. At the school, she runs into Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), an obnoxious nerd, who hooks the gizmo up to a power outlet again and creates a massive time warp over the school. This causes a black out in town, allowing Vince and Michael to escape the police and return to the school. There, they find the whole building is now consumed in a vortex of space/time where objects and people from the past and future begin to manifest around them. They eventually run into a crazed Sherman who tells them that Ellie is in danger and fears that the world is ending.
Dragging Sherman along, Mike and Vince grab weapons they find from a platoon of fallen Vietnam War soldiers and make their way to the science lab. After battling a T-rex in the gymnasium and a mob of post-apocalypse mutants, they reach Ellie and successfully deactivate the gizmo. Things appear to return to normal just as emergency crews and police show up at the scene. Moments later, Dr. Roberts appears, rejoicing after an unexpected trip to Woodstock, and proudly gives Michael an "A" grade on his science project under the condition that he gets rid of the machine because it's something mankind is not ready for. Roberts is then arrested by the local sheriff (Richard Masur), who thinks he blew up the power lines - as Michael had accidentally left Robert's peace medallion at the hardware store.
As promised, Michael returns the gizmo back to the junkyard where he found it and then spends the rest of the night with Ellie after his car breaks down; in contrast to his previous devotion to the car, he says "It's just a car."
The film was critically panned. It currently holds 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 4 "rotten" reviews and one "fresh". New York Times critic Stephen Holden wrote on August 10, 1985; "My Science Project" is a cheerful teen-age adventure film that in its snappier moments resembles a far less clever and less expensive "Back to the Future." Despite a plot that has few interesting twists and a shoestring budget, the film glimmers with moments of drollery."
The film was not a success. On its first weekend, it only peaked at #14 with $1,504,118, averaging $1,499 per theater. It ended grossing $4,122,748 in domestic box-office.
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