Project Almanac

For about the first hour and ten minutes of Project Almanac — and maybe even longer, in all honesty — there isn’t a single ounce of conflict to be found. For the final 30 minutes, the conflict we get isn’t of any importance, and get solved as simply as one might expect. It’s a time travel movie in which five teenagers wind up figuring out how to time travel, and then eventually one of them messes it up because of the butterfly effect, and then has to try to solve it. That’s the entire movie. And it takes more than an hour to get to the point where anything goes wrong.

Our lead is David (Jonny Weston), by virtue of him being the smartest person in the film. His best friends, Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) are his engineers. He wants to get into MIT, so his sister, Christina (Virginia Gardner), is filming everything he does to submit with his application. The fifth member of the party, Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia) joins late, only coming into the picture after the time travel thing is already being attempted. David has a crush on her, because we need a love story.

The time travel thing takes a while to get going, too. The main four find David’s dad’s blueprints for a time machine, take a long time to get it made, attempt to make it work like three times, and it’s only then that the time travel stuff starts to happen. Then, as can be expected, they make their lives better by undoing things that went wrong, and following two main rules while time travelling: (1) all five must travel together, and (2) they will record everything (because it’s a found footage movie).

Of course, only the first rule gets broken. Then they have to try to fix even bigger mistakes caused by them trying to fix smaller ones, and it continues to escalate until the only logical conclusion occurs. None of this is anywhere as entertaining as one might hope. It’s so stupid, it feels so unimportant, and it’s all caused by idiotic characters doing moronic things. For a movie where everyone’s supposed to be of relatively high intelligence, these are some dumb (and annoying) people.

And don’t even get me started on the eventual “message” of the movie. Prior to its conclusion, lessons are learned and, as you can expect, it turns out that “there are no second chances.” It’s supposed to be a touching and learning moment. And then, not even a couple of minutes later, that gets thrown out the window, and then the movie throws to the credits. The movie’s only point gets cheated out on at the end.

The film is also shot in a found footage fashion, which means that we’re getting shaky, handheld camerawork that is awfully cut together because it’s “found.” I’m so over this style of shooting a movie. It so frequently serves absolutely no purpose, and the few movies one could say benefited from it are easily outweighed by the ones that used it detrimentally. Here, it feels contrived, false, and doesn’t in any way benefit the movie. It’s more likely to cause headaches than immerse anyone in the proceedings.

One of the stupidest decisions filmmakers can make is to have a bad movie and then draw comparisons to better movies. This one makes references to the Terminator franchise, Back to the Future, Looper, and Timecop, to name most of them. Why does the film want me to remember movies that are better than it, that I’d rather be watching, and that would be a far better use of my time? What possible logic is there to that, unless the filmmakers are delusional enough to think their movie is on-par with those?

Project Almanac is a mundane waste of time that doesn’t really get going until far too late, and even at that point, it never actually manages to get good. It story plods along and is a joke, its time travel scenes aren’t that interesting, it contradicts its only purposeful theme at the end, and the found footage style in which it was shot works to its detriment. Project Almanac wastes your time, and even goes so far as to remind you that better movies exist that you should watch instead. Skip this and go watch one of those.

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