Sunday, March 14, 2010

Film Review: MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985, Jonathan R. Betuel)

Stars: 3.7 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: John Stockwell, Fisher Stevens, Danielle von Zerneck, Dennis Hopper, Richard Masur, Barry Corbin.
Tag-line: "The funniest sci-fi movie of the summer."
Best one-liner: "Hey, sayonara, dicknose!" Said by Fisher Stevens.

MY SCIENCE PROJECT is exactly the kind of stock, 80's lightning-drenched, madcap time travel teen movie that you think it is. And that's just fine with me. Written and directed by Jonathan R. Betuel (whose credits include THEODORE REX and a few of FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES), I can see that you're incredulously arching your eyebrows in regard to the quality. So here're 4 reasons why it's worth your time:

#1. Dennis Hopper. This is probably one of Hopper's worst performances, but if you're a Hopper fan, you'll realize that there's not really too much of a difference between the best and worst. Here, he plays a hippie science teacher (at one point he wears his outfit from EASY RIDER) and he's having a goddamn blast.

The writing seems inspired perhaps by the packaging blurb for a $10 flower child costume, his dialogue’s basically just variations on "Have a nice day, man.” At one point he gets to feel the power of the universe itself surging through his fingertips. How do you suppose Hopper plays it? Do you think he goes the subtle and understated route? Well, watch the movie and find out.

#2. Richard Masur, against type. Often confined to 'Dad' and 'Milquetoast' roles (LICENSE TO DRIVE, MR. BOOGEDY, et al.), here he gets a chance to play a crusty hardass sheriff, and it's great.

You almost think you're watching William Forsythe.

#3. Fisher Stevens. He's gaunt, smarmy, and out of control.

He wears a dime-store feather headdress, makes exclamations like "Sit on this, butt plug!," and tells a female cop to "Chill out, butch, and get a shave!"

#4. David L. Snyder's (BLADE RUNNER, PEE-WEE) production design. We don't really get to see it until the final act, when the high school is transformed into a brutal, fog-enshrouded battleground where past, present, and future collide. Nazis, Cyberpunk mutants, gladiators, troglodytes, Viet Cong, and a T.Rex take on our automatic weapon-wielding high schoolers, and all manner of brainless spectacle ensueth.

Oscar winner Fisher Stevens takes on a T. Rex.

Just about four alien turbo-powered stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Yeah, this film is worth checking out for Dennis Hopper's typically Gonzo performance (shades of his similar role in Altman's O.C. & STIGGS) and Fisher Stevens smarmy best friend, which almost makes up for John Stockwell's complete lack of screen presence and charisma.

I had forgotten how cool the film's climax was... at least it was at the young, impressionable age I saw this film on VHS.

Anonymous said...

Vince Latello is the best sidekick in history.

Sean Gill said...


Yeah, I've gotta check out OC & Stiggs at some point. Anytime Hopper is having a great time, I usually am, too. John Stockwell- I don't know. Maybe they were going for a poor man's Matt Dillon vibe? Eh, it doesn't matter- there are dinosaurs.

And on that same note Anon.,
I would go as far as to say that John Stockwell is Fisher Stevens' sidekick.

Castelar García said...

I just got this film on disc and it is simply a good blend of humor and science fiction. The only thing missing here is a main villain that would have come out of the device which could have threatened the protagonists, but otherwise it was a fun ride.

Sean Gill said...


Agreed––and thanks for stoppin' by!