Project Almanac: Film Review
Cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Virginia Gardner
Director: Dean Israelite
What would you do if you were a teenager with a time machine?
The go-pro, handheld cam obsession of the selfie generation provides the backbone of the latest found footage movie, which mixes in the glee of recent superhero found footage movie Chronicle and the pure hedonism of Project X.
Centred around David Raskin (Jonny Weston), a high schooler science genius who's on the brink of being accepted into MIT but is short on cash for the required scholarship, Project Almanac posits the theory that time travel is possible.
After David and his gang of (largely) intelligent friends find a video of David's 7th birthday and spot him in the mirror, they gradually try to work out exactly how he got there. A series of clues lead them to the basement and the discovery of a machine that helps them travel in time - and could be the answer to their various problems.
Project Almanac wears its influences on its sleeve and actually proves quite successful within the confines of its genre. Citing Looper, Doctor Who, Groundhog Day, Timecop, Terminator, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and even Argo, the writers have grasped the pop culture mettle fully by the hand and run with it. Plus the fact the central character's a science pro (and a relatable everyday type who struggles with girls, not your typical geek) helps with the set up and kicks the story along (though admittedly, David has to keep explaining things to his sister aka the audience proxy).
In fact, it's the fact that these characters are everyday types and relatable (the guy with the secret unrequited crush, the goofball of the group et al) that helps Project Almanac work in the ways it does. There's a dizzy joy as the group heads to Lollapalooza with backstage passes purchased after the event on eBay and do all the kinds of things you imagine you would do again - if you could.
The inevitable Butterfly Effect which hits the group impacts into proceedings late in the day; granted the theory is the slightest ripple causes the biggest problem but the script doesn't call for this to come into until the final stretch, making the film feel a little rushed as it throws emotional weight at the wall hoping it'll stick (and don't get me started on some of the time travel - it's paradoxical at best in places) and leaving audiences a little dizzied as the denouement tries to pack the weight on.
Overall, Project Almanac works best as a hedonistic mash up that stays within the confines of the rules it lays down; sure, some of the found footage moments creak and feel shoe-horned in but for the large part, the occasionally self-aware referencing and play-it-straight-but-within-teen-concerns means that this time travel flick doesn't give the feeling of deja vu you may have expected.