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Film / My Science Project

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My Science Project is a 1985 science fiction teen comedy written and directed by Jonathan R. Betuel.

Teenage gearhead Michael Harlan (John Stockwell) has two weeks to turn in a science project he hasn't even started, or he won't graduate high school. He and his date Ellie Sawyer (Danielle Von Zerneck) break into a government aircraft boneyard looking for some machinery he can restore and use as his project. He takes a mysterious device that resembles a plasma globe attached to some other equipment. In auto shop the next day, he and his TV-obsessed friend Vince Latello (Fisher Stevens) discover that the device is a time machine, capable of creating a time warp where things from different time periods can interact.

My Science Project contains examples of:

  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: The boys are attacked by a completely hairy, chimpanzee-like Frazetta Man. Sherman identifies it as a "Neanderthal man", which even in The '80s we knew weren't like that.
  • Auto Erotica: Vince makes out with his girlfriend Irene (Candace Silvers) in a car decorated with a disco ball and Christmas lights.
  • Bad Ass Driver: Michael. He's able to drive his GTO at 120+ to outrun an electrical "probe", crashes through a road closed sign, and is able to bring the car safely to a stop off-road near an electrical tower with no damage.
  • But I Read a Book About It: At the climax, the group gets their hands on M-16 rifles but Harlan and Latello don't know how to reload them (Latello didn't even knew the shotgun he brought into the school was not loaded until he tried to use it). Sherman, the nerd, then reveals he read an Army field manual and demonstrates how to do it. He also recognizes the baseball court has been remodeled by plants from the Creataceous and when Latello asks how the heck would he know, Sherman says a deadpan "I read".
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Sherman identifies the Neanderthal Man, Latello says that he doesn't care where he's from.
  • Cool Car: The Presidential Limo seen in the opening scene, Harlan's customized Pontiac GTO with an electromagnetic-clutch-activated supercharger, and Vince's Buick Rivera equipped with a deployable middle finger.
  • Cool Teacher: Robert Roberts is this with somewhat mixed results. That said, all the main characters respect him and ask for his help to understand what the Gizmo is. When he ends up going into a warp, the three friends are horrified. Ellie and Michael clearly show concern for him, and are relieved and delighted to see him again when he returns.
  • Cowboy Cop: Detective Nulty, who investigates the power failure, dynamite theft and explosion because he hasn't had a interesting case in a long time. He even looks the part with his Cowboy hat and treats Michael and Vince a bit roughly; though Vince more than Michael because of the former's wisecracks.
  • Distant Prologue: The first scene has a UFO crashing into the desert after a apparent malfunction during a engagement with US fighters and brought to a military base hangar. The President is called in to see for himself. Knowing that they can't keep word from getting to the public indefinitely, he orders them to "get rid of it" except for the "engine" which was already removed. After that, the movie skips ahead to 1985.
  • Due to the Dead: Cleopatra tosses a flower to Vince; after knocking out a Neanderthal, Vince lays the flower on his chest.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: In the aircraft boneyard, Ellie sees a rat and screams, attracting the attention of a security guard. Michael has to coax her off the piece of machinery she's climbed onto before they can run.
    Harlan: There are worse things than rats, Ellie.
    Ellie: Oh yeah, such as what?
    (cue the guard)
    Security Guard: Hey, you two! Hold it right there!
    Harlan: Jail!
  • Fainting: The nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge) faints when he sees the T-Rex.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sherman, Vince and Harlan bond during their quest to shut the Gizmo down and save Ellie.
  • First-Name Basis: Hippie Teacher Robert Roberts (Dennis Hopper) insists that his students call him Bob.
  • Flipping the Bird: Vince flips off a guy honking at him from behind with a light-up hand that emerges from a hatch in his trunk.
  • Functional Addict: In his opening scene, Mr. Roberts seems to have retained the ideals and attitude of the 1960's, but is otherwise a clean and sober guy — and then it's shown that he huffs a little nitrous to take the edge off after class.note 
  • Genre Savvy: Michael quickly recognizes Ellie's sabotage is an effort to get his attention and he asks her what's going on.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Michael finds the device gathering dust in an abandoned fallout shelter.
  • Hippie Van: Bob drives a colorful van with spots and peace signs painted on it.
  • Missing Mom: We never hear what happened to Michael's mom, but she's clearly out of the picture.
  • Nice Guy: Despite Michael's assertion that he's better with machines than people, he's a quiet, laid back, pretty friendly guy who undergoes some Character Development.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Michael's father Lew (Barry Corbin) impulsively marries Dolores (Ann Wedgeworth), a cosmetics saleswoman he barely knows who uses her company's products to redecorate their apartment, to Michael's displeasure.
  • Slow Electricity: Michael's car can outrun the electrical "probe" from the time warp device, allowing the protagonists to beat it to an electrical tower in its path and blow it up.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Vince wears sunglasses all the time. When asked why, he says:
    Vince: Because when you're cool, the sun shine on you 24 hours a day.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: A Stop Motion one is summoned in the basketball court. Its entrance is surprisingly similar to the better known one from Jurassic Park despite predating it by 8 years.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Played for Laughs.
    Detective Nulty: What's your name, cowboy?
    Bob: Robert Roberts, Esq. to you, honky!
  • Threat Backfire: Ellie warns Sherman that the Gizmo is dangerous and he could wind up in another dimension. In his excitement, he completely ignores her warning, finds the wires and plugs the device back in to the electrical outlet.
  • Title In: "1957" for the first scene, "1985" for the second.
  • Trap Door: In the boneyard, Michael falls through a trapdoor into a fallout shelter. There he finds the device.