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My Science Project
Written and directed by Jonathan R. Betuel (the man behind The Last Starfighter) in 1985, My Science Project tells the story of a high school student named Michael Harlan (John Stockwell) who, not surprisingly, has a science project due soon, a science project that he's been putting off and putting off and, well, not really done anything about. When his teacher, Bob Roberts (Dennis Hopper) finally gets fed up, he tells Michael in no uncertain terms that if he doesn't get his project handed in, he's going to fail the class. Michael doesn't want that, and so he tries to scramble at the last minute to put something together. He digs through a scrap pile at a nearby military base hoping to find something he can use there, and surprisingly enough, he finds something that just so happens to be a strange glowing device of some sort.
Michael takes the device and shows it off to his pals, Vince Latello (Fisher Stevens), Ellie Sawyer (Danielle Von Zerneck) and Sherman (Raphael Sbarge). From there, he decides to use it, completely unaware of what it really is or what it is capable of. Soon enough, he's unleashed the device's potential and has to contend not only with a grouchy science teacher, but also time warps and dimensional portals that put the very safety of the Earth at risk, leaving it up to Michael and gal pal Ellie to set things right as best they can.
My Science Project is goofy and predictable but so too is it pretty entertaining. It's a fun movie, not something that you need to take at all seriously, and it's quickly paced with decent production values. It's also very much a product of the mid-eighties in every way that a movie can be, from the hairstyle and clothing to the effects work to the score to the overall look of the movie and more. This'll definitely endear the movie to those with an affinity or sense of nostalgia for the time period, and definitely increase the movie's charm factor with those viewers a lot more than it will for those who aren't necessarily into the kitsch inherent in a lot of movies made in the time period.
The performances here are pretty good, at least in the context of the story being told. Stockwell makes for a perfectly amiable lead, maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer and lacking in motivation perhaps, but he's not a bad guy. He has decent chemistry with the actors who play his pals, Fisher Stevens getting most of the laughs but Sbarge handling things nicely enough as well. Danielle von Zerneck is really likeable here as well, she's a good casting choice for the role of Ellie. Of course, it's hard to go wrong casting Dennis Hopper in your movie. Even if he was never known as one of the easiest actors to work with during his wilder days, he brings an inimitable screen presence to anything he's involved with, and My Science Project is no exception. He's a lot of fun to watch here and frequently steals most of the scenes that he's in.
A quirky mix of sci-fi, fantasy and comedy, My Science Project never feels all that realistic or engaging in the way that the best movies are, but once it finds its footing and Michael's device starts opening one can or worms after another, it proves to be a pretty entertaining way to enjoy ninety-minutes or so with a movie.
Kino Lorber brings My Science Project to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. It's a nice-looking transfer that boasts good detail, depth and texture. The image is quite clean, showing very little print damage while retaining plenty of natural film grain. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor is there any obvious noise reduction. Overall, this looks quite good.
The English language DTS-HD 2.0 track on the disc is free of any issues. Dialogue stays clear, clean and well-balanced from start to finish and there are no audible problems with any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are offered in English only.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from film historians Mike McPadden and Kat Ellinger, cohosts of the Busted Guts podcast. It's a solid track, lots of background information on the crew, director Jonathan R. Betuel in particular, and especially on the cast members. They talk about the origins of the film, put it into context alongside quite a few other comedies from the same era and offer up a nice mix of insight, trivia and critical analysis.
The disc also contains a new interview with co-star Fisher Stevens who speaks about his work on the film, getting the part, his thoughts on the movie and getting along with his co-stars. Additionally, the disc includes a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection. It would have been nice to get some of the deleted scenes that are out there or even a standard definition version of the film's original cut, but that didn't happen.
My Science Project is entertaining enough, though it's likely to be of more interest to those with an affinity for eighties nostalgia than the average viewer. It's a bit on the predictable side at times but the cast is solid and, if it isn't a classic, it's still pretty amusing. Kino's done a nice job with the Blu-ray release, it looks and sounds quite nice and contains a few decent extra features. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.