The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) — Adventures of the Time Boat

“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.”

Lissa’s rating: When do I get to work on cool projects like this?

Lissa’s review: There’s a very special, very secret class we science grad students are required to take before we’re granted our PhDs. Gary Larson hinted at it in a Far Side cartoon where young scientists were learning the proper method to laughter — that special, mad-scientist, “I’ve discovered something I can blackmail the world for a billion dollars” type of laughter. Also covered in this class are threatening and negotiating with the United Nations, ranting about how no one ever believed in you and you’ll show them all, and using your scientist stature as a sex lure.

But most important is properly saying the phrase “May God have mercy on us all” (or some variation thereof). This is very, very important, because it’s what we say whenever we screw up, from breaking a flask to sending an entire battleship forward in time.

Just ask Dr. James Longstreet. Back in 1943, he conducted an experiment to make a ship invisible to enemy radar. A pretty decent goal, when you think about it. Instead of making the ship invisible, he sent it forward in time. May God have mercy on us all. While most of the battleship ends up suspended between 1943 and the 1980s, two sailors (David (Michael Paré) and Jim (Bobby Di Cicco)) are thrown forward into the ’80s themselves. (Sidenote: it’s funny. I spent a good part of the movie thinking that Michael Paré looked a lot like Josh Hartnett. Turns out they both played Trip Fontaine at different times in his life in The Virgin Suicides.) And while they don’t end up learning all the words to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” or watching Flashdance, they certainly do experience a bit of culture shock as they try to figure out what’s going on.

Naturally, what’s going on is a breakdown in the space-time continuum that could destroy the entire world, unless one of our heroes can save us. Hint: it’s not Dr. Longstreet.

The Philadelphia Experiment is a total B-movie. Laughable effects, ludicrous premise, and bad acting (your choice of wooden performances or dramatic overacting — it runs the gamut) certainly make it qualify. But like the best of B-movies, it goes over the top of being just bad and gets into the realm of just being silly. This one definitely falls into the category of “so bad it’s funny.” And amazingly, after watching a round of bad movies, that’s actually pretty hard to do. So many bad movies have plots that are impossible to follow, and instead of howling with laughter, you’re left scratching your head and wondering what the heck is going on.

Most people seem to think that time travel flicks don’t work. Me, well, I think it depends. How seriously are you considering this time travel thing? If you’re really making a big deal out of it and investigating the mechanics, then no, it doesn’t work. There’s a reason we haven’t gotten time travel to work yet in the real world, and that’s because we don’t understand it. But if a movie doesn’t focus on how the time travel happens (except perhaps in a telephone booth or a battleship via magnetic radiation), then I’m totally fine with time travel.

I did think there was more they could have done with the time travel aspect of this. Sure, you have the normal fish out of water jokes. Look! Our heroes are dressed funny! Wow! Eggs and bacon cost a lot more than 25 cents! Okay… but go further. Show a little creativity. Do anything but get electrocuted constantly and hook up with a Meg Ryan lookalike. Honestly. But then, like I said, this was a B-movie. What was I expecting? The comedy of the year? I really can’t get up the energy to rant about this, precisely because it doesn’t even pretend to be good.

B-movie from the ’80s, Liss. Keep your expectations in line with that. It’s not going to be genius, heck, it’s not even GOOD. It’s so bad it’s funny. In fact, it’s exactly the type of movie you should watch with two sarcastic robots.

Didja notice?

  • Jimmy gets electrocuted at least five times.
  • Allison looks a lot like Meg Ryan in the beginning of When Harry Met Sally.
  • Dr. Longstreet picked up a British accent between 1943 and the 1980’s?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s