John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Project Almanac

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Dean Israelite

Cast: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Allen Evangelista, Ginny Gardner, Ginny Gardner

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: January 30th, 2015

Project Almanac is a new movie undermined by its tiresome style. It was only a few years ago that the “found footage” concept soared in its usage in The Blair Witch Project. Since then, viagra 100mg some features have thrived using the concept with it (V/H/S, Cloverfield) while other films were hindered by it (Devil’s Due, Into the Storm).

Project Almanac falls in the middle. Its strong qualities help it overcome the limited concept but it’s definitely hindered along the way by its obvious pandering to the idea.

The story focuses on a tech-loving high school senior named David Raskin (Jonny Weston). David isn’t the clichéd lonely nerdy student we’ve seen in too many movies before. He’s close friends with his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and has two close male friends: Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista). He’s also developed feelings for Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), the cute high school girl he pines after and can’t speak to without stumbling over his words (this movie isn’t cliché-free, after all).

David, after discovering a video tape showing that he, as a high school senior, was at his seventh grade birthday party, realizes that his father left him an instruction manual on building a time machine. Alongside his two friends and sister, he builds the machine without thinking about what they should use it for.

Wisely, the film spends its time on the construction of the machine, showing how different failed experiments led to their eventual success. There are countless scenes where the team eagerly bands together for a test, only to find out that their attempt was in vain. It’s only halfway through the movie that the machine begins to work at all, letting the story’s slow pace build anticipation for the story’s latter half.

As the lead character, Weston does an admirable job (he’s much better here than he was in Chasing Mavericks) in creating a thoughtful character, who only finds himself tempted too often by the machine. David is a straight-laced kid but when he misses the opportunity to get the girl, he finds himself wrapped up in his own misfortune and wishing too idealistically to change the past.

Because the writing team of Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan focus so much attention on the creation of the machine, some of the film’s last thirty minutes seems hasty. It’s inevitable here that time traveling will cause ripple effects (as the concept did in movies like The Terminator and Back to the Future) but those effects— that are so important to the third act— are so haphazardly thrown together that their genesis is confusing.

Director Dean Israelite is so unfortunately hindered by the concept of found footage that it starts to overshadow the plot. When a person is watching movies like this, that concept should make sense. In The Blair Witch Project, the idea made sense. Here, it seldom does and the script reflects that in forced moments that try to explain the reasoning behind it.

Twenty minutes into the film, one character notes “Film everything. From now on, film everything.” It’s such a surprising thing to say especially since— from the movie’s first second— all of the important scenes in the story have been filmed by one of the characters. Such dialogue becomes painfully jarring when “filming everything” is brought up multiple times.

What Project Almanac has going for it though is that it’s more diligent (especially in its first half) than other such movies. It does jump into clichéd territory but for most of its running time, it was entertaining and it showed the main character’s real struggle when he decides to change the past to preserve his present. It’s hopefully not the best teenage-centric movie of the year but for what it’s worth, Project Almanac is worth spending time with.

Review by: John Hanlon