Sci-Fi Summer 85


After BACK TO THE FUTURE rocked the Fourth of July Weekend Summer Of ’85 upon its release, a month later between August 2 and August 8, a wave of science fiction comedies hit the screens to critical and commercial indifference (along with others that year like YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE GOONIES and EXPLORERS). All the films were in production at the same time as BACK TO THE FUTURE, so there was no copy-catting, just one of those moments of the collective 1980’s zeitgeist which included the spate of Father-Son Role Reversal Comedies. I liked this wave for at least it was a genre I was into. That said I too joined the collectivist conscious by seeing COCOON but not going to see WEIRD SCIENCE, REAL GENIUS, and MY SCIENCE PROJCT in the theaters; instead I saw FRIGHT NIGHT three times. The big summer was such a bust that the LA Times chimed in:

“Analysts have placed the blame for summer ’85’s woes on such things as cyclical depression, product glut and genre madness. In part, this will be remembered as the summer of “My Real Weird Genius Science Project,” the amalgamated title of three sound-alike films released almost simultaneously by different studios.” 

I did catch all of them on VHS shortly thereafter, although I’ve yet to sit through REAL GENIUS — I know people love it but why can’t I get into it all? WEIRD SCIENCE features some classic John Hughes moments and it’s Anthony MIchael Hall’s most assured performance, plus it has Michael Berryman. MY SCIENCE PROJECT has a very cool, easy plot that screams High Concept. Teens find time travel device which sucks their high school in a time warp. Boom. Give that man a studio development deal over pizza at Spago’s! There’s lots of terrific special effects here and one of the least engaging leads for a youth comedy. John Stockwell, a good actor and now director, isn’t given much of an arc or personality. Worse, his sidekick, “Vince Latello” played by the otherwise versatile Fischer Stevens, is one of the most obnoxious characters of 80’s cinema. It’s clear his bullying Brooklynese bluster was supposed to charm audiences like a mini-Barbarino – the film even ends with a shot of his mug. Fuggedaboutit. Dennis Hopper is amusing in one of his many roles parodying himself and there are some nifty effects, including makeup work by Rick Baker and a cool Tyranasaurus Rex. MY SCIENCE PROJECT never lives up to its enticing potential but looking back, it was nice to have a time when Republicans were in charge yet Science wasn’t as much of an ideological threat. Even Ronald Reagan loved BACK TO THE FUTURE. Of course he did.


2 Responses to “Sci-Fi Summer 85”

  1. I have a soft spot in my heart for MY SCIENCE PROJECT if only for the climactic showdown with the T-Rex. Can’t disagree with your criticism of Stockwell and Stevens, but I still enjoy this film anyways. And you really should give REAL GENIUS a chance. It’s a fun film that flies in the face most of the John Hughes films in the sense that the geeks stay geeks, don’t get glammed up at the end and change but rather stay the same and still triumph, which I always enjoyed.

    Just watched EXPLORERS again via Netflix streaming and enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s been years since I watched it and it has aged well.

    • I’d definitely like to revisit MSP as I haven’t seen it since that initial viewing. But my first impressions are pretty accurate and I shudder at the thought of revisiting Vince Latello…

      EXPLORERS is all kinds of yummy, uneven and uncompleted tho it be. i saw Joe Dante speak at length about the film during one of his New Beverly runs and it was clear he was sad about the weird choices made by the studio to simply tell the filmmakers to stop filming and release a film without a real third act. But Robert Picardo’s alien performance and pop culture anti-militarist monologue at the end is a show stopping direct link to Dante’s Brain. And Jerry Goldsmith’s ethereal “She Likes Me” track used for the cosmic romance is one of my all time favorites:

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