Project Almanac (2014) Movie Review

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To (sort of) continue our Time Travel theme, I’ll now be looking at what can effectively be described as “Michael Bay produces The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”.  What do I mean by this?  Lets find out.

Directed by Dean Israelite (Who at this time is scheduled to direct the reboot Power Rangers movie) in his directorial debut, our film centres around a 17 year old high school senior (and aspiring inventor) named David Raskin (Jonny Weston).  David has been accepted into the MIT (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology), but is unable to pay the tuition fees.  In an effort to make his dream a reality, his mother Kathy (Amy Landecker) decides to sell the family home (creating conflicting interests).  While he goes through the belongings of his late father with his friends, he finds an old camcorder which shows his 7th Birthday Party (and also shows the last time he saw his Dad), while studying the video, he notices something interesting…at the door leading to the basement…he sees his current self looking through the door, like something out of the Twilight Zone.  Trying to figure out what’s going on, David, his friends Adam (Allen Evangelista), Quinn (Sam Lerner), sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and eventually the girl he fancies, Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia), end up finding a time machine in the Raskin Family’s basement, and after numerous attempts to get it working, eventually it does, and with it, they effectively play “The Scooby Gang Who Leapt Through Time, minus their mangy mutt”, where they correct their mistakes, make bullies pay, and go to Lollapalooza during Spring Break, where they meet the Imagine Dragons and Atlas Genius, among other things.  Then we go through a pile of rough patches that come with every coming-of-age story, which include chaos theory, difficult choices, and other consequences that the video game Life Is Strange had already touched upon.

As a found-footage film, some people might already be put off, and I can understand.  But at the same time it’s different, because a majority of found-footage movies are horror movies, while this is simply a coming-of-age science fiction thriller done with a found-footage presentation.  Is it different?  Yes.  But is it good?  Well…

Acting-wise, It’s fine.  There are no major stand-out performances that leave a lasting impression, but at the same time, nobody was terrible or wooden.

In terms of characters, they’re very generic.  The idea of a high school student who is also an aspiring inventor is a nice idea, and the fact that he has friends who help him with his dream is nice as well.  However…If you’ve already watched the movie Big Hero 6, all of a sudden, the characters become pretty boring in this film.  I know they’re probably trying to make them vague enough so that more people can fit themselves into that scenario, enjoy the ride, and for some guys to have Sofia Black D’Elia as an object of personal fantasy.  But that’s not a particularly good approach.  You can put any teenager in this scenario and it would be the same.  I get it.  But this keeps the film from having a lot more character and memorability.  It’s about the audience putting themselves into the situation, more so than taking something out of it.  If you want interesting characters who are likeable and within the context of time-travelling or young inventors, there are plenty of other movies and TV shows worth watching.  But to be blunt; Big Hero 6, Back To The Future, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time all have vastly superior characters.

Story-wise, It has some fun moments, but fun shouldn’t be a highlight in this sort of film.  On top of this, it’s full of plot holes that would make The Dark Knight Rises look like a (jam) doughnut.  It manages to recreate some of the highs that could be generated if 1 did have a time machine quite well (such as using it to win the lottery or using it to experience a happy moment all over again), but not hit a home run with it.  But I will admit, some of the lower, sadder scenes did generate a couple of ‘feels.

Presentation-wise, Project Almanac has MTV smeared all over it.  It’s loud, full of energy, not particularly witty or humorous, and dribbling with that combination of fear and excitement that came with not knowing where you’ll be when High School is over.

Themes covered are themes that have already been explored before in other time-travel stories.  On top of this, other films have done them either on par or better.

Would I recommend Project Almanac?…No.  At the very most I would say “Feel free to watch it once, because that’s all you’ll need”.  I was on a ferry travelling from Dublin to the north of Wales when I saw it.  Considering the crossing was well over 3 hours, it was a way to pass the time.  It’s watchable, and it does take you for quite a wild ride.  But it’s not a ride you would choose to revisit.

Acting: **1/2

Characters: **1/2

Story: ***

Presentation: ***

Themes: ***

Overall: **3/4

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