Alternate Universe: A Rescue Mission

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Alternate Universe: A Rescue Mission Movie Poster Image
Well-intentioned teen time travel tale has mild suspense.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Advocates for scientific discovery and shows women and girls with scientific aptitude. Reminds that technological advancement has both positive and negative effects.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen heroes are persistent and brave. Females are presented as being good at science, and are eager to pursue their inventiveness. Parental figures are conscientious and protective. Negligible ethnic diversity.


Foot chases. Two heroes hang from a precipice; some falls. Suspense as teens are in peril in multiple sequences.


"Pee," "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alternate Universe: A Rescue Mission (aka Traveling Without Moving) tells the story of budding teen scientists as they attempt to travel through time to rescue the parents they've long assumed to be dead. Using physics (specifically Einstein's theory of relativity) combined with a determined will and a mysterious watch they've discovered, the kids attempt to create a legendary wormhole. Expect some suspense: chases, falls, teens in peril from stony villains, and -- spoiler alert -- the apparent death of a featured character (who recovers). Made on a shoestring by Fresh Films, a nonprofit organization whose objective is to "transform teens through the lens of films," the movie was made with the help of more than 200 students around the United States. The organization fulfilled their mission. Testimony from the kids involved was overwhelmingly positive. It's clear, however, that this is a mostly amateur effort that benefits those involved more than general audiences.

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What's the story?

Mickey (Stephanie Andrea Barron) and Alex (Anna Benuzzi) Martin are teen sisters with a strong bent toward science in ALTERNATE UNIVERSE: A RESCUE MISSION. They live with their feisty grandmother, having been orphaned by their renowned scientist parents, supposedly in a car accident. Mickey has been working on a time travel project in her physics class when they find a hidden watch in their grandmother's bedroom. It's a strange watch that emits strange images. Together with a friend and their physics teacher, the two girls use the mysterious watch as an assist to create a "wormhole," a legendary structure that links separate time periods, based on Einstein's theory of relativity. To their utter amazement, the wormhole, which resembles a tunnel, whooshes them back in time. They find themselves in an alternate universe. Their shock only escalates when they realize that their parents are alive and working in this mystifying place, basically held hostage by a greedy villain.

Is it any good?

Earning extra credit for utilizing student filmmakers throughout the creative process, this low-budget, nonprofit time travel movie has little to recommend it as a full-fledged entertainment. Using lots of split screen images, rudimentary special effects, and primitive stunt work, along with some largely ineffective adult performances, Alternate Universe: A Rescue Mission simply isn't satisfying. The leading teen actors -- Stephanie Andrea Barron, Anna Benuzzi, and Zachary Keller -- fare best. They are engaging and work nicely together. Filmmakers make an effort to explain the physics involved, but for the novice scientist, it's better to just "go with it" (a phrase utilized often in the film) than to try to understand the concepts introduced. Kudos to the process -- introducing teens to filmmaking, and hoping that such projects flourish -- but for audiences, the final cut needs to be much improved.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the mission of Fresh Films, the creative team behind Alternate Universe: A Rescue Mission. How does hands-on learning achieve good results? What projects, if any, have you been involved with that provided such experiences? 

  • Time travel is a subject that has long intrigued storytellers and filmmakers. What is it about the concept that's appealing, especially to kids? If you could travel through time, where would you go? When? Why?

  • Where could you go to find out more about wormholes? 

  • Think about creating a short film that tells a story. What genre would most appeal to you? How important is the planning of such an activity? What would you need to prepare? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Themes & Topics

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