(NEW YORK) -- Project Almanac. Great -- another “found footage” movie. Did we really need another one of these?
Mind you, I love any premise that involves time travel, and Project Almanac likely exceeds whatever expectations you may have of it, based on the marketing campaign. But this story would’ve been so much better if these kids had traveled back to 1999 and sabotaged The Blair Witch Project. While I love that movie, it begat a found-footage epidemic in Hollywood for which there seems to be no cure.
But whatever. In Project Almanac, we have high school senior David Raskin (Jonny Weston), a budding genius who’s attempting to score a full scholarship to MIT. Along for the ride are his best friends Adam (Allen Evangelista), Quinn (Sam Lerner), and David’s little sister, Christina (Ginny Gardner), who films everything (hence the found footage).
David gets that MIT scholarship, but it’s only a partial one. He retreats to the attic to rifle through his father’s old notes, looking for inspiration for another project he can send to the MIT admissions board. Turns out dad was also a genius, but was killed in a car accident on David’s 7th birthday. David comes across an old video camera, and turns it on to find footage from his 7th birthday party -- but there’s a twist. The footage reveals a brief glimpse of 17-year-old David passing by a mirror. What?
David and his sister visit his dad’s old basement lab, where they discover a metal box with some interesting-looking gadgets and notes. Turns out dad was smarter than they thought, because he invented a time machine!
David recruits his besties for help and they start jumping back in time. Since the technology only allows them to jump back a maximum of three weeks, their goals are pretty small: change the outcome of school assignments, get even with a bully, and win the lottery. Also included in their adventures is Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), David’s crush. You’ll have to see the movie to find out how she gets involved but David’s fondness for her plays a major role in how the plot unfolds.
We’re dealing with time travel, which means we’re dealing with a little thing called a causal loop: the idea that if you change one tiny thing in the past, it will have a major ripple effect on future events. I love how it’s handled in this movie. Are there issues? Sure, but the speculation and effort invested in presenting the causal loops will keep the most skeptical and harshest time-travel-movie critics interested.
Project Almanac has its flaws. Writers Andrew Stark and Jason Pagan, and director Dean Israelite, really start testing your suspension of disbelief when they asks us to accept that in the ten years since their dad died, neither David nor his sister have been in his basement lab. And again, this found-footage thing is perplexing. It’s amazing how somebody with a camera can stand 30 feet from their subjects, and yet we hear the characters as if they were wearing microphones.
Silly, yes, but we’ll forgive, because Project Almanac is good fun, a solid teen time-travel flick that’s almost perfect for this generation.
Three-and-a-half out of five stars.
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