No matter how likable the actor playing the character is (which he really is), it's a little hard to root for somebody who's putting about five states worth of people at risk. You may actually find yourself rooting for the military men to just hurry up and put a bullet in the kid's brain, ending the madness once and for all. That doesn't happen, obviously, and it's no surprise considering how inept the government is depicted here. It's not like this guy got caught peaking into the girl's locker room with his trousers down; he stole some f*cking plutonium and built an atomic bomb... Stop being so damn casual about it! Honestly, the intensity level is nonexistent, hardly even rising after the bomb accidentally goes into countdown mode and the characters are moments away from death. John Lithgow even finds time to crack a joke or two.
Had these noticeable and consistently distracting problems not taken me out of the film, chances are I would've loved it. Because as much as THE MANHATTAN PROJECT may get a lot wrong, it also gets a lot right too. Whenever the atomic bomb-building science whiz manages to take a break from employing the common sense of a 5 year old, he actually makes for a very entertaining lead character. The scene where he bypasses all of the lab security so he can steal the plutonium is handled wonderfully (with the exception of maybe the laser bit), proving to the audience what a smart and resourceful individual he can be, instead of just saying it and expecting us to go along.
This intelligence also comes through in the dialogue, as evidenced in the hilarious scene where the teen gets all starry-eyed and tells his beautiful girlfriend, "I never thought I'd say this to anybody, but... I gotta go get the atomic bomb out of the car." Moments like these elevate the production into a state of potential greatness. It's just too bad the story itself isn't able to rise to the occasion.
Audio Commentary (with director Marshall Brickman): Despite some interesting bits of discussion littered through the track, even huge fans will be hard pressed to sit through the entire thing. What's particularly odd is that a voice pops up randomly in places, apparently consulting Brickman with what he should be talking about. I don't get why this wasn't edited out.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (18:27): A standard but interesting retrospective making-of featurette, with the director taking up most of the runtime.
Homemade Apocalypse (4:16): Following along the same lines as the previous extra, this featurette delves into how the filmmakers designed the bomb used in the film.
Also included is the Theatrical Trailer and a Trivia Track featuring random information relating to '80s pop culture.