DVD REVIEW: PROJECT ALMANAC / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: DEAN ISRAELITE / SCREENPLAY: JASON HARRY PAGAN, ANDREW DEUTSCHMAN / STARRING: JONNY WESTON, SOFIA BLACK-D’ELIA, SAM LERNER, ALLEN EVANGELISTA, VIRGINIA GARDNER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
If we had a time machine here at STARBURST Towers (which is not an admission that we don’t, merely an intimation that if we have we’ll most likely be using it for suitably philanthropic purposes) we might, after a full discussion and a fair vote, decide to nip back in time, find the person who invented the concept of ‘found footage’ movies and give him a damned good talking to. And maybe even a bit of a kicking. True, we’d be denying ourselves the odd gem such as Cloverfield and Chronicle, but generally we can’t help thinking the world would be a better place without two thousand no-budget movie monstrosities full of shrieking teenagers on an ill-advised quest to find Bigfoot, equipped only with a camcorder they won’t let go of under any circumstances. Project Almanac would probably disappear too which would be rather fitting considering it’s a time travel movie all about what happens when some whiskerless kids discover the means to nip back into their own timeline and tinker with the course of history. Never a good idea...
Project Almanac is a big noisy thing, deeply unsubtle and cursed with all the inanities and illogicalities of its now-exhausted shaky cam genre. But there are a few half-decent ideas lurking somewhere in amidst the clichés in a time travel yarn which is all about consequences and responsibility. Seventeen-year-old David (Weston) is delighted when his application to join MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is accepted, but not so pleased when he discovers he’ll have to fund his attendance himself. David, like his long-deceased Dad, is a bit of a science geek and he roots about in the family attic in search of some forgotten scientific gizmo his father might have been working on which he can use to fund his studies. He finds instead a camcorder on which has been recorded footage of his own seventh birthday party; lurking in the deep background is David himself – aged seventeen. How is this possible? Danny and his chums find a machine buried in the cellar; it’s called Project Almanac and, with a bit of unlikely tinkering, they manage to get it working and create the world’s first time machine. Not unnaturally, they use it to pop back into their recent past to make themselves popular, to win the lottery and... er... to attend a Lollapalooza rock concert (well, this is an MTV Film) where David fumbles a play for the girl he has a crush on.
Not content with travelling back in time and having fun with his friends, David can’t resist popping back alone once or twice to make a few odd adjustments here and there. But he’s forgotten about the ripple effect and his actions are to have terrible repercussions when he returns to his normal timeline. In many ways this is fairly standard time travel stuff but it’s done with a degree of pace and energy – and a bit too much made-up technobabble as the gang try to get the time machine working. But the paradoxes and time distortions are well-reasoned, the effects are efficient and the relentlessness of the ‘quick, grab the camera’ trope in even the direst situation soon gets wearing. Frustratingly, the film would have been a better bet if it had just been a proper movie with a proper narrative as the ‘found footage’ format does it no favours whatsoever. Project Almanac is a harmless and lively enough effort for teens unfamiliar with the history of time travel movies but with absolutely nothing new to offer experienced aficionados and ultimately it’s a movie that’s likely to vanish quickly from our memory, whether we use that time machine we might or might not have or not.
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10