Michael Harlan (John Stockwell, Top Gun) has procrastinated on his science project until the last minute, and his teacher (Dennis Hopper, Speed) issues him an ultimatum; turn in a science project or flunk. So Mike scavenges a military base's junk pile for a suitable gizmo to pass off as his project. He finds one...and unwittingly unleashes the awesome power and energy of the unknown. Twisted dimensions and time warps collide to create a whirling vortex that takes the class on a startling adventure back in time and into the future.
Given the videotape craze of the 1980s and my love of science-fiction, I'm pretty sure I rented 'My Science Project' on home video at some point in high school. I know at the very least I read about it in the pages of Starlog magazine when it came out in theaters. Yet my mind must have repressed my memory of this movie, and having watched it again on this Blu-ray release, I think I understand why. The film is horrible. Not just bad in an 'oh, so good it's bad' kind of way, or bad in a cheesy 1980's sci-fi flick kind of way. It's just bad, period.
The movie opens with a short scene that takes place in 1957, when then-President Dwight Eisenhower (actor Robert Beer, who also played Eisenhower in The Right Stuff) is brought to an Air Force based and shown an alien spaceship that the military has captured. The President gives the order to have the vessel destroyed, but its power source survives, leading to the events of the story that follows, which takes place in 1985.
High school student Michael Harlan (John Stockwell) is told by his science teacher (Dennis Hopper) that he better come up with something great for his science project or he's going to fail the class. The movie's early scenes go out of their way to establish Michael as great at car mechanics – so that when he finds the mysterious alien power source in an abandoned military plane graveyard, the audience won't have any questions about how he figures out how to turn it on (don't worry, you'll have plenty of other questions!). Michael's got a few high school pals as well, all of which meet the stereotypical portrayals you'd expect in a movie like this. There's his best friend and fellow car nut Vince (a woefully miscast Fisher Stevens), nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), and bookworm Elle (Danielle von Zerneck) – whose only obstacle from being the hottest girl in high school is the geeky glasses that she wears and her lack of self-confidence (both of which, naturally, disappear later in the movie).
The gang discovers that the device can manipulate time, not only allowing them to jump forward into the future an hour or two, but eventually opening a portal from the past that allows objects, animals, and people to come through into the future. Thus, we get an extended third act here that involves our heroes fighting off Neanderthals, Gladiators, Viet Cong soldiers, and a T-Rex that looks like it escaped from the set of TV's 'Land of the Lost'. As exciting as this all might sound, it's all rather loud and pointless, but at least this part of the movie tries to be entertaining...everything that comes before seems like just filler so the creators can wait and blow the movie's budget on these concluding scenes.
As if the script handed to these (mostly) young actors wasn't enough, the actual acting here is pretty atrocious. Whether by design or by choice, star John Stockwell does his best Danny Zuko impersonation throughout, and it's pretty grating to watch. Dennis Hopper – probably just to make things interesting for himself as he waited to cash his paycheck – decides to make his science teacher a hippie from the 1960s, allowing him to inject "hey man" at the beginning or end of most of his dialogue. The usually great Barry Corbin also got sucked into this mess, playing Michael's single father, who spends most of his scenes dealing with a sex-crazed girlfriend (played by Ann Wedgeworth).
It's not like I expected much but some fun 80's nostalgia from 'My Science Project', but the movie has not aged well at all. I found myself struggling to sit through its lifeless storyline and I'm guessing most of you will feel the same. The lack of extras on this release, along with some A/V issues (read below), make this Blu-ray one that's easy to skip completely.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'My Science Project' presents itself on Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the 25GB single-layer disc and no inserts. There are no front-loaded trailers on the disc and, in fact, no bonus materials whatsoever. The movie immediately starts playing upon loading, but there is a menu to access here. The menu only contains a 'Play Movie' option and features the same still image as the keepcase's cover.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'My Science Project' was shot on 35mm film and is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The few fans of this flim may be happy to finally see this movie in all its widescreen glory on home video (the prior DVD versions were non-anamorphic), but that's about all to get excited about with this release, which is very grainy (the whole third act of this movie takes place in dimly-lit/darkened locales and the black levels here aren't particularly strong) and still has some noticeable dirt and debris on the print.
The overall image is colorful, although perhaps not as detailed as one might hope. Despite not offering a whole lot of 'wow' or 'pop' when it comes to the video quality, other than the dirt on the print (which I mentioned above) and some occasional jitter of the image (really only noticeable when credit appear on the screen), the transfer here isn't too horrible and doesn't suffer any major glitches, such as aliasing or banding.
The only audio option here is an English 2.0 Dolby Digital mono track – meaning the same sound comes from both the left and the right front speakers. It's bad enough Mill Creek has taken a movie that had an original stereo track (as did the non-anamorphic DVDs released back in 1999 by Anchor Bay then again in 2004 by Disney) and given it dual mono here, but on top of that there's just a weird sound to the spoken word that makes every line from the actors seem like it was ADR'd in in post-production. Some of the spoken word seems ever-so-slightly out-of-synch, but it was hard for me to determine if this was the problem or if the bad audio just made it come off like that. While the movie itself is pretty lackluster, the disappointing audio only manages to make a bad movie even more disappointing to watch on Blu-ray.
There are no subtitle options on this release.
There are zero bonus materials on this release. Nana. Zilch. Not a single one.
This bare bones release is pretty much only for those who like the movie and wish to upgrade from their old DVD version(s). Sadly, the decision to go with a dual mono soundtrack and offering up only an average transfer of the film may not make this update all that noteworthy. If there's good news here, it's that this title can generally be found for under $10 at most retailers. But it's not a film I enjoyed or would recommend. Even at this price, I'd say skip it..