Project Almanac is a sci-fi film done in the quasi documentary/lost footage/shaky camera style made popular by much better films such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Chronicle. It is directed by Dean Israelite and stars Jeremy Weston as David Raskin, Sofia Black-D’Elia as Jessie Pierce, Sam Lerner as Quinn Goldberg , Allen Evangelista as Adam Le and Amy Landecker as Kathy Raskin. This is the first full length film to be directed by Mr. Israelite and although his intentions are good, the result is a film that travels down familiar roads, doesn’t add anything new or different to time travel tropes and has significant problems with its pacing.
David Raskin is a brilliant high school senior that hopes to get admitted to MIT. His project proposal,while impressive, gains him admission but not a high enough scholarship to make his dream affordable. David prowls around in the attic, looking for inspiration from his father’s notes and projects. (It’s not really made clear if David’s dad is missing or dead.) He discovers an old video recorder and starts looking at footage of his birthday party when he turned 7. David discovers his reflection in a mirror at the party.
David continues searching through his dad’s things and discovers plans for the construction of a time machine (Ta-da!). Naturally, he starts building the machine and enlists the aid of his closest friends and his sister. Along the way David meets Jessie and develops a crush on her and thereby hangs the conflict that drives the last 1/3 of the film.
Naturally, the time machine works (who knew all you needed was a few car batteries and some hydrogen from the high school locker room to power a time machine!) The time machine works and with a few modifications, our fantastic five are ready to make some history!
Wackiness ensues in the form of getting payback on a bully, winning the lottery, retaking a test ad nauseum and the longest sequence involves the gang spending the day at Lollapalooza. It is during this scene that David blows a chance to develop a relationship with Jessie but he solves it by going back in time by himself and responding differently so that they become a couple.
Eventually the gang discovers the ripple effect of their actions and decide that they need to undo the things that they have done so that things are put back, yada yada yada. However, David doesn’t want to do this because he doesn’t want to undo his relationship with Jessie (the guy is actually having sex now, so what do you think is more important to a teenager?) David tries to undo some things and leave others alone, but each action makes things worse, until he finally decides that he must travel back to his 7th birthday party and talk his dad into destroying the machine and its plans so that it is never built.
Don’t worry there’s a little epilogue that give David and Jessie a happy ending (hooray for teenage love!).
This film suffers from several problems. The manner it which it was filmed is not logical. Supposedly David’s sister is the one who records and chronicles everything. However, there are plenty of scenes filmed in the same manner that don’t fall into this premise. We also have plenty of quick shots to give the (presumably) male members of the audience a gander at cleavage, legs or just a lingering look of the female form. And why would you cut your footage into a long musical montage????
The script suffers from similar lapses in logic. There is a scene where all 5 friends travel back to the same point in time to allow one of them to retake a test. However, there is no explanation as to why they don’t run into their previous past selves who were doing the same thing. Things occur for the sake of convenience and with the hope that the viewer won’t ask questions.
The actors are all quite serviceable in their roles and do the best they can with this stuff. I hope they are able to move onto to better projects in the future.
Project Almanac is one of the worst films I’ve seen in quite some time. If you want to watch a good time travel movie, watch Looper or 12 Monkeys. If you want a good lost footage film then watch one of the 3 I referenced at the beginning of this article. Just don’t watch Project Almanac.
I give Project Almanac a grade of D.