Somewhere in the year 2014, a geeky high school senior named David gets accepted into MIT after building a motion-controlled drone. He discovers soon thereafter that MIT tuition isn’t cheap. Instead of applying for a federal loan or getting a part-time job, David goes through his deceased father’s pile of stuff with the hope that he’ll find an experiment that’ll somehow make up for his lack of college funding. He finds the schematics for a time machine, and with the help of his equally geeky (but less intelligent) friends, they build it. And then they use it. Naturally, he brings along his sister (who else could possibly document all of this?) and Jessie, the girl he has a crush on (because teenagers and stuff). Some things happens. Then it gets really boring. And then it ends.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is Project Almanac in a nutshell. It is an incredibly stupid movie, even by generic time travel standards, and you shouldn’t bother with it. Unless, of course, you’re 13 years old. If that’s the case, then this is probably the coolest film you’ll ever see. And believe me, that’s not a compliment. Thirteen year olds don’t like good things. When I was 13, my favorite movie was Armageddon and I thought Small Soldiers was a masterpiece. It’s a hopeless age.
A part of me thinks that I’m being too hard on Project Almanac. It is an “MTV Movies Production,” after all. The whole enterprise is clearly geared towards the tween crowd. And as I mentioned in my review of Predestination, time travel is a tricky genre to get right. It’s easily taken far too seriously, or not taken seriously enough. When done right, it can be ridiculously compelling. When it’s done wrong, it’s just ridiculous.
And that’s the biggest issue I have with Project Almanac. It’s nonsensical. It’s all mumbo-jumbo. Every single time the characters said anything science related, all I heard was the Swedish Chef from The Muppets attempting a lecture on particle physics.
But that isn’t the worst of it. It’s easy to forgive fake science for sounding fake because, well, it’s fake. Unrealistic characters who make illogically dumb decisions? Not so easy, and that is exactly what we’re given. Through what seems like an exercise in trial and error, David hooks up with Jessie, only to discover that changing the past is not without consequences. This puts him in a tricky place. Should he undo the damage, and risk his current relationship? Or should he just leave things how they are, and keep the girl?
David is a bright kid. I mean, he built a friggin time machine. Surely he knows that relationships aren’t built on top of singular moments, right? If the girl fell in love with you at one moment in time, then she’ll love you at another moment. Time travel shouldn’t change people, just time. Events. Things. Moments. Not people. I hope you know where I’m going with this, because even typing it out is making my inner-human cringe. After this horrible series of events, David goes on a time-hopping adventure all on his own, and Project Almanac transforms into an abridged, dumbed-down version of Primer.
If annoying characters, stupid science, and a worthless plot weren’t enough to truly bring Project Almanac down, here’s something else to chew on: it’s a found-footage film. You know, the particular sub-genre that started with The Blair Witch Project and should have ended with it as well. Seriously, nobody in their right mind actually enjoys found-footage movies. The only realism they portray is how incredibly cheap the financiers behind them actually are. Make. It. Stop.
In case it hasn’t been made abundantly clear, I hated Project Almanac. It’s a bad movie. It’s predictable, and it’s not worth the price of admission. The fact that it name-checks a handful of good movies, like Looper, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Groundhog Day only adds insult to injury. Even tweens deserve better than this.