Written by Warren C. Bennett
This is another piece of mine I wrote for a now defunct website called Retro Guava. It was an Australian site that sold retro themed shirts. I did a series of retro movie reviews for the site that focused on films coming out between 1980 and 1995. My Science Project was released in August of 1985. This review has been extensively edited for style and substance from the original review. – WCB
The trials and temptations of teenagers in High School and College are widely documented. The details of school life during the era of Reagan are no secret. The battles between Jocks versus Nerds ranged far and wide with casualties too numerous to count. Before the advent of computers, Jocks more often than not won these battles, for the Nerds just did not have the muscle and man-power. Ultimately, the Nerds won this titanic struggle for School dominance in the 1980′s. Unlike the previous decades, the 1980′s brought forth a true era of technological superiority which only the Nerds had the upper hand. Many movies prove this point but three movies in 1985 show the truth of this idea. I dub them the 1985 Science Trilogy, three movies made by different studios that show how science helps stereotypical nerds overcome their life situations. All three were released within two weeks of each other, between August 2 and August 9 in 1985. Two of them are well-known while the third is less so. My Science Project is the black sheep of the trilogy and the last to be released. Hitting the theaters on August 9, 1985, the movie wasn’t a success. Since that time it has become a true cult classic that fits in well with the other two films in this trilogy.
Victor Hugo once said “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” The search for this type of love can be an all encompassing goal, prodding the timid to be bold and turning the most courageous in to cowards. Sometimes it even turns a young reporter/psychologist into a master manipulator who uses any and all of her feminine wiles to date a handsome grease-monkey named Mike. Of course, the grease-monkey has ulterior motives as well: He must pass science class so he can graduate and also exact some kind of revenge on his recently estranged girlfriend. Although aware of the nascent manipulations of the young woman, Mike asks much more intelligent Ellie out on a date. Much to Ellie’s complete surprise, this date includes sneaking into a military junk yard and stealing a piece of equipment that could the destroy the world around them.
Out of the three movies in the 1985 Science Trilogy, this is one that I haven’t viewed in at least a decade. As I started to watch this film, I wondered if my memories of the film would actually live up to a viewing in this civilized modern era. I remember a fun science fiction romp with lots of cheesy effects and a crazy hippy science teacher that wanted to stick it to the man. After the first ten minutes, I put this movie aside and watched “Real Genius” instead. It just wasn’t clicking with me and I wasn’t sure I would like the film.
After viewing the two other movies in the 1985 Science Trilogy, I came back to this film. I had to watch it because of who stars in the flick. It has Donna from La Bamba, Dennis from Christine, Billy from Easy Rider and The Plague from Hackers as part of the cast. My Science Project even has the general from War Games as part of the cast. How could one that loves retro movies not enjoy a film with all these icons form the 80’s?
As an aside: These are the actors that played said characters, of course, not the characters themselves. I could argue that Dennis Hopper’s character is an older Billy from Easy Rider, but that is a subject for another article.
I am glad I didn’t let the first ten minutes of the film keep me from watching it again. It started out slow but eventually became a fun romp with explosions, gunfire, aliens, mutants and even a T-Rex. Eventually the love between the two main characters does blossom and the aforementioned grease-monkey risks his life for the young geek lass. The acting becomes much more tolerable as the film progresses and the movie really kicks in to high gear after the science experiment starts destroy the town’s high school. This happens by turning it in to a multidimensional and multi-era warp zone of death and destruction.
There are several reasons I feel like people should watch this movie and why I enjoyed it. I like the camaraderie formed between the three young men as they ventured deeper in to the transformed high school. It was fun to watch these characters bond. I also enjoyed watching a young Fisher Stevens with a stogie clenched between his teeth and an assault rifle in his hands. This is worth the price of admission alone. I also dig how the hippy science teacher tries to be both a mature role model and a friend to his young charges, especially since he eventually goes mad with alien engine infused power.
For every great moment in the movie there are there are many head scratching moments. This is especially noticeable if a person tries to think about the science behind the story. How do the three friends race a beam of light in a muscle car and win? Light is much faster than an internal combustion engine and no current car can go the speed of light. To really enjoy this movie, the viewer has to chose to ignore our own reality. I like to assume movies like this take place in a different dimension where a muscle car can go faster than a beam of light. I liked this scene although but I know it is really implausible.
The bottom line is that My Science Project is an enjoyable quasi-scientific comedy from the 80’s. If you are as irritated at most modern comedies as I am, it is nice to go back in time and see that even the so called B movies from that era could be fun to watch. I might say this is is the worst of the 1985 Science Trilogy, but really that isn’t saying much. It is still worth watching but just remember to not over think the plot.