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:
- Auto Erotica: Vince makes out with his girlfriend Irene (Candace Silvers) in a car decorated with a disco ball and Christmas lights.
- Distant Prologue: The first scene has a UFO crashing into a military base. Soldiers destroy all of it except the central time mechanism. After that, the movie skips ahead to 1985.
- Due to the Dead: Cleopatra tosses a flower to Vince; after the protagonists kill 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.
- Fainting: The nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge) faints when he sees the T-Rex.
- 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 hood.
- 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.
- Not Good with People: Michael understands and trusts machines better than people, and at several points wishes humans were as predictable as cars.
- 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 electricity from the time warp device, allowing the protagonists to beat it to the power station.
- Sunglasses at Night: Vince wears sunglasses all the time. When asked why, he says, "Because when you're cool, the sun shine on you 24 hours a day."
- They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Played for Laughs. When a cop asks Bob "What's your name, cowboy?" Bob answers, "Robert Roberts, Esq. to you, honky!"
- Threat Backfire: Ellie warns Sherman that if he touches the orb, he'll end up in another dimension. Sherman is delighted and immediately touches it.
- 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.