I have decided to file My Science Project under the Not So Secret Obsession tag instead of the Required Viewing tag for personal reasons. I really like the movie for what I am reluctant to admit are nostalgic reasons. It is a bad, very bad 80’s movie. It is like, if Back to the Future, Weird Science, and all those other time-travel-science-project-nerdy-guy-makes-good-and-gets-the-girl films had a dumb cousin. But that is what I really like about it, it is not good, not flashy, not really very well acted, but it is so perfectly 80’s for me. It is the same reason I adore Night of the Comet and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, they are just so damn 80’s and maybe, secretly, deep down inside somewhere, I miss the 80’s a little bit. Maybe I wish my life consisted of school and a paper route and watching MTV at the neighbor’s house. Or maybe it is more accurate that at times, I am exhausted by the connectivity of my life now, I secretly take delight in being out of cell range and would love to go an afternoon with out learning something pointless about a Real Housewife or a Kardashian through grocery store check out line osmosis. So, for me, it is Required Viewing because it gives me a chance to just be 80’s, for everyone else, they can think it is my Not So Secret Obsession.
The movie begins in 1957 with a scene of a United States military operation to secure a crashed UFO in a hangar bay. A man, (President Dwight D. Eisenhower), enters to see the craft and simply orders his men to “get rid of it.”
Forwarding to 1985, a senior high school student named Michael Harlan, (John Stockwell), whose only interest is muscle cars, reluctantly searches for something to turn in for his final science class project. While on what his bookworm friend Ellie Sawyer (Danielle von Zerneck), thinks is a date, Michael breaks into a government aircraft boneyard and stumbles upon a hidden fallout shelter. There he finds a glowing, plasma globe-like, piece of equipment and grabs it just as a military guard approaches and chases him away.
The next day Michael cleans up the device in auto shop class and unwittingly activates it where it begins drawing power from a nearby boombox. His friend Vince Latello (Fisher Stevens), convinces him to attach the device’s “terminals” to an automotive battery whereupon the device emits a swirl of colorful energy that manifests into an Ancient Egyptian vase. As the two leave the auto shop for their next class, they soon realize they inexplicably lost two hours of time and missed their final science exam.
After a series of other strange happenings surrounding the machine, Michael takes the device, referred to as “the gizmo,” to his ex-hippie science teacher Dr. Roberts (Dennis Hopper), who quickly realizes it is a portal to another dimension. While bathing in the cosmic energy of the gizmo and contemplating the wonders of the universe, Roberts suddenly warps away only leaving behind his peace symbol medallion. Michael tries to disconnect the machine from the power outlet, but is unable to. His only solution is to destroy the power lines leading to town before the warp spreads out of control. Meanwhile, Ellie remains behind with the gizmo, but is knocked unconscious when Sherman (Raphael Sbarge), a nerdy kid at the school, tries to tamper with it.