Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Language and Sexual Content
Directed by: Dean Israelite
Written by: Jason Harry Pagan & Andrew Deutschman
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardener, Amy Landecker & Gary Weeks
Seeing as superheroes, family adventures, and countless horror films have been done in a handheld style, why not a time travel adventure? That was probably the reasoning behind PROJECT ALMANAC, formerly titled WELCOME TO YESTERDAY. This found footage sci-fi flick was originally supposed to come out in February 2014 and was delayed almost a full year for a slightly less prestigious January 2015 date. It became obvious that the studio had little faith in their product (January is usually where cinema goes to die), but PROJECT ALMANAC is a surprisingly okay little flick that will resonate well with its intended audience. At least, this was indicated by the theater packed full of teenagers on a Saturday night.
David Raskin is a teenage inventor accepted into MIT, but doesn’t have the funds to pay for tuition. While applying for last-ditch scholarships, the boy genius stumbles across some odd footage on a camera and schematics of a strange machine in his basement. David’s long-deceased father was working on a top-secret project that a group of teenagers have just found. The idea was time travel. Of course, building a time machine comes with risks. Though things seem to be working out for the better, a whirlwind of unforeseen consequences have disastrous effects on the world around them. It’s up to David to find a way to fix the screwy timelines and multiple possible outcomes.
PROJECT ALMANAC definitely has an intriguing premise that’s fun for the most part. The film takes its time before diving head-on into the actual science fiction portion of the story. There is an admirable (though not entirely successful) attempt made at developing these characters. The young performers do a capable job of selling their characters, even if they are less than likable. One comparison that undoubtedly has to be made is lining PROJECT ALMANAC up to 2012’s CHRONICLE. Both films revolve around a group of teenagers discovering something incredible and using it to their advantage with disastrous results. However, PROJECT ALMANAC feels fast and cheap in its execution. The plot is fairly by-the-numbers, though it was interesting enough to keep my attention.
The only downright annoying moment that I can point out in this film would be a concert that goes on for far too long in an MTV-style montage. However, PROJECT ALMANAC falls victim to a problem that plagues most films centering around time travel. There are plot holes. Those are somewhat expected in a time travel tale, but PROJECT ALMANAC contradicts its own logic during a few points. This unfortunate logic gaps also launch everything into a final third that is entertaining, but doesn’t make a lick of sense. I defy anyone to try to explain how the ending of this movie worked out in a rational manner. It’s damn near impossible and puts a damper on an otherwise decent found footage take on time travel.
This film is definitely not on the level of BACK TO THE FUTURE or LOOPER as far as time travel stories go. Hell, it’s not even HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. PROJECT ALMANAC is an okay found footage flick that comes off as entertaining enough, in spite of glaring plot holes and somewhat unlikable characters. It’s an okay flick and there are far worse ways to kill the time. Considering that it’s a found footage teenage-aimed piece of science-fiction, PROJECT ALMANAC is slightly above average.