I was a little hesitant to see another “Found Footage” movie that involves a group of teenagers getting into trouble, but I do enjoy time travel movies and the look of the movie didn’t seem too full of itself. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away from this movie and its hard to up throne the King of nerdy & complex time travel movies that is Primer. But I appreciate any attempt at it. The two things I knew before going into was this was made MTV studios, so I was going to be bombarded by product placement at every possible moment, and it was co-produced by Michael Bay, so I’m counting on Bro-science theories on how time works.
The story is about a young student inventor David Raskin (Played by Johnny Weston) who is recently accepted into MIT, but cannot afford its tuition. While looking around his house, he discovered an old video camera with footage from his 7th birthday, where upon closer examination, he discovers his current self in that time frame. Following clues from the video, David and his sister Christina (Played by (Virginia Gardner), his friends Adam (Played by Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Played by Sam Lerner), and with the help of highschool crush Jessie (Played by Sofia Black D’Elia) assemble a functional time machine that allows them to redo past experiences, but at a unknown consequence.
Time Travel movies are usually about how the main characters try to handle the responsibility of jumping through time and making sure not to mess with time paradoxes (Ex: Back To the Future, TimeCop, Looper, Hot Tube Time Machine). Project Almanac definitive feels like a regular time machine movie with kiddie wheels on that doesn’t have the confidence to take them off.
Once the plot starts moving, and the initial “We made a Time Machine?!?” part is done, there was so much potential for crazy time loops/paradoxes to form that the movie hints at, but doesn’t deliver. The first issue I had with the movie is the time machine. One third of it is is built from mysterious computer parts made by David’s father, a few car parts and a Xbox One. (Thanks MTV, you really know what gamers need in time machines), Project Almanac avoids mention a large proportion of “time science” by saying the main character’s dead father solved most of the work off screen, in the past, unexplained.
The first few times at time travel, the group travels back to redo some past events that had left them embarrassed at high school, then ramps up to winning the lottery, attending concerts and being smooth talkers to the ladies. (No matter what books or Steve Harvey tells you, you will need a time machine to understand women).
There a few plot holes that Swiss Cheese the story, and a movie about time travel should be careful about those things. The movie sets up the rule about time paradoxes and the ripple effect, but doesn’t follow that until its convenient to mention it. But for the sake of what market this movie is targeting and how this was a crazy ad for both Xbox and Lollapalooza, both businesses didn’t think this one through on being major plot elements. One) It’s possible to make a time machine with an X-Box One (Void those warranties for time science!). Two) Attending Lollapalooza will destroy the world. Where the movie starts to reveal the message of TIME TRAVEL IS HARD is when the group hops to Lollapalooza have some fun without realizing the ripple effect of being there.
Overall, I was mildly entertained by keeping track of the story and how this movie’s version on how time paradoxes work, and its a nice refreshing pace to the found footage genre that doesn’t involve a girl screaming into a camera for four minutes. Its an easy to digest time movie that will fill in the “time travel” story for the beginning of 2015, but you can experience a deeper and more satisfying movie experience somewhere better.