Friday, February 6, 2015

Project Almanac

by Kelsey Barritt, Writing Intern

While watching a movie about the repercussions of time travel, one may be tempted to think, “Am I living in the past?” Filmmakers repeat this premise time and time again. This time with a more modern flair, Project Almanac mildly entertains viewers, while making them dizzy.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International
For some reason, the filmmakers used the trending “homemade video” camera look made popular by movies like Paranormal Activity. Project Almanac documents its events by making it seem like the characters themselves are filming, using smart phones or basic video cameras. Probably not the best decision. It actually gives viewers motion sickness. Plus, who records their friends sitting around eating lunch in the cafeteria? Nobody, that’s who. Throughout the film the handheld camera’s placement and timing was a bit too convenient.

If you can ignore the crazy convenient camera and are not susceptible to vertigo, Project Almanac might be alright. The story begins when David Raskin (Johnny Weston) discovers what appears to be an image of his modern day self at his own birthday party 10 years prior. Absolutely shocked, he and his two friends (Allen Evangelista and Sam Lerner), his sister (Virginia Gardner), and his hopeful romance (Sofia Black D'Elia) dig deeper. They discover that David’s late father had every intention of creating a temporal relocation device (a.k.a. time machine) before his death. With his image in the video as proof, they know that the machine will, or already has, come to realization. With all kinds of blueprints, the team of three nerds and two cute girls create a device capable of going back in time.

At first the machine basically acts as a cool toy for the friends. They leave class for a bathroom break, go to an entire concert festival, and are back before a teacher even thinks twice. They stand up to bullies. They give themselves multiple second chances to pass a test. But as one would guess, things take a turn for the serious when they realize that playing with time has consequences. From feeling manipulated to potentially causing catastrophic events, the machine wreaks havoc among the group. Apparently nothing can get between a group of friends like a good old-fashioned time machine.

The movie is just about as organized as its camera work. Although it follows the generic time machine plot (discovery to excitement to regret), it does so in a scramble. There’s no climax here, or primary conflict.

The acting in the movie does not suffer . . . as much as the structure. Most of these actors are “unknowns,” and they do pretty well. Johnny Weston performs well as an extremely smart, humble, and curious teenager. The movie does not delve deep into characters, but does provide small back-stories to explain their personalities (editor’s note: I saw no back-story, but I liked the film). You cannot possibly be invested in the journey of any particular character.

Overall, Project Almanac does a halfway decent job with something that has been done to death. We see nothing new here.  We feel nothing novel, except for the empty backs of theater seats that don’t have barf bags. It provides some fun and some traumatic moments, but most of all it reinforces one very important lesson: time machines are not to be messed with, especially in mediocre movie form.


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