Project Almanac (2014)

A group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control.


Project Almanac
Directed by Dean Israelite
Starring Allen Evangelista, Jonny Weston, Sophia Black-D’Elia, Sam Learner, Virginia Gardner
Running Time 106 Minutes

It’s not that I have an inherent dislike of American teenagers, but you could probably forgive me for doing so, as they are either all way too good-looking and/or brilliant at stuff that I think is cool. They do not represent any kind of youth I remember but they invariably seem to be having a better time doing something I never did while they are still young enough to look good whilst doing it.

I refer of course to the likes of this effort from Dean Israelite (amongst others so similar to this in feel and tone, that I wanted to shout the titles of all of the films this is too much like to really get away with, with an accusatory pointy finger waggling at the screen) as he directs what are (to me, at least) a cast of relative unknowns as they go about their business of sticking two fingers up to science for the purposes of entertainment. Without the same kind of budget as some other movies that attempt to do the same, this is completely ridiculous, of course, but then when was that ever a justifiable obstacle for the purposes of getting bums on seats? Exactly, so why start now, eh?

Project Almanac falls helplessly into the pigeon-hole of Disney films that are too old for Frozen fans but not quite old enough for those audience members that might rightly be expected to attend. Seeming to ape the likes of Chronicle, but without the teeth required to provide the requisite bite, Israelite’s effort to bridge a yawning gap between childhood and young adult is a valiant one, even if it does subsequently come across as slightly lacking the kind of smarts that an all too savvy teenage market requires. There are bangs and whistles aplenty, but this never overtakes a flimsy and flighty plot that unfortunately does away with the science that may have provided more gravitas.

A la Villeneuve’s Enemy, the story is kickstarted by a dawning self-realisation. When a young man fleetingly sees his grown up self in the mirror of his living room during the recording of his own birthday party a decade earlier, rightfully questions are raised. Was that him? If so, how? When he and his friends start to dig a little deeper, the secrets of his fathers murky scientific past start to come to light and we learn that his father was involved in the creation of some very high tech design, affording the opportunity of time travel. Somehow this breakthrough has remained a secret in his basement since his fathers disappearance, on the same day as the recorded birthday party.

Conveniently, these young adults are all very adept at creating a time machine from the available blueprints, all having some semblance of scientific understanding and ability, which was handy, and much adventure ensues when they realise, that they can, in fact, travel through time. And it’s up to this point that Project Almanac most closely brushes shoulders with Chronicle, as these innocent teenagers start to tamper with things they do not understand, whilst all the while filming their experiences for posterity. There is a heightened sense of excitement as we wonder just whether this will work and if it did, what would they do with this new found power?

Going back to kill Hitler is mooted, so there is at least a semblance of nobility in their initial endeavours, but too quickly (and for reasons even more scientifically improbable) these notions of derring-do are dropped in favour of personal gratification. A little predictable, to be sure, yet still fun to witness. It begs its audience to wonder themselves that if they were put in the same position, what would they do?

In all, this is quite entertaining, never overshadowed by too much cgi, but enjoying enough of it to keep the viewer in his or her seat for the duration, if that is what ticks their boxes. The story is, like most stories of paradoxical time-travel, a little bit predictable (sense the irony), but this doesn’t really stop being fun from beginning to end and at times, evens threatens to become a little bit gripping. The script is unchallenging, which was a bit disappointing, but delivered honestly by all concerned. In conclusion, this is a little bit too simplistic for those that will be drawn to it by the idea itself, and maybe a little too lightweight for its demographic.

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One comment

  1. While I’ve not got the same issues with American teens as you do..ha! I did have a problem with the fact that it seemed filmed by a 12yr old with a hand held camera.. had a headache within minutes..great premise but because you miss 1/2 the movie due to this filming style it was a miss for me. :/

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