Every once in a while the hype train comes rolling in, and I jump on board like a blind little toadie. There was no reason for me to be excited about Project Almanac. The trailer didn’t sell me. It looked like a carbon copy of so many other time travel films before it, and it’s found footage, which is one of the weakest genres out there. Yet, there I was on opening day, ready to throw my $6.75 at the cashier for my ticket, and start time hopping.
God, what was I thinking? What was MTV thinking? What was anyone thinking when they made this movie? The film opens with a pretty cool audition tape for MIT. Our hero has created a remote control via little pads he puts on his fingers, and he can control a drone. Right afterwards, the film gets really sloppy. He finds out he can’t afford to actually go to MIT after being accepting. He finds an old camcorder in the attic that was last used by his father ten years prior, on the day he died in a car crash, and it magically works.
I know this is a film about time travel, and one should suspend disbelief to a certain point, but there is no way in hell that battery would still have juice in it. As he watches the film of his birthday party, he catches a glimpse of his present-day self in a mirror in the very back of the scene. Someone in my theater actually shouted, “Are you serious? No way he would even notice that!” It’s literally a one-second shot that needs to be zoomed in to see it, and I’m supposed to believe that he noticed it the very first time he turned it on? To add insult to my poor brain, the films insists that the only processor powerful enough to make this time machine work is one from an Xbox One, and it requires a battery from an electric car to power it. Thankfully, our cute nerds and sexy girls figure out how to pack all of this into a tiny backpack for when they start time hopping.
The film’s biggest flaw, outside of its poor characters and how unbelievable the whole thing is, has to be the overly long concert scene, where our gang travels back in time to see Imagine Dragons and Atlas Genius play. Hell, they even hop on stage, get songs dedicated to their hot, misunderstood girlfriends, and dance with the band. I couldn’t even make this up. It just falls apart as the film reaches its climax, which takes the most generic route it could possibly go. If you’ve seen the trailers for this film, then you know every thing that will happen.
This is director Dean Israelite’s first feature film, and it shows. The found footage angle never really works. I get that they want to capture it all on camera for the sake of science, but his sister is the worst photographer ever, and she bounces the camera to the boys’ faces constantly instead of the car that is about to time hop. The product placement reaches further levels of absurd as Red Bull cans fly around the screen. Later, the films drops pop culture references in the form of “cool” films like Argo and Looper.
Maybe I’m just too old to understand what these hipster kids want in their sci-fi films these days, but Project Almanac delivers nothing we haven’t seen a few hundred times before. Instead of giving us any sort of solid resolution, it goes down the most generic, happy ending route it could think of because hey, everyone deserves to be happy, no matter what they’ve done. I left Project Almanac hating myself for falling into the hype that never had any rationale. Was I that desperate for a good sci-fi adventure? Was it the Platinum Dunes logo? Or was the hipster in me screaming for some ADHD entertainment? Either way, the film doesn’t deliver in any aspect that it should have. Its science is a jumbled mess, the product placement is infuriating (think Wayne’s World, but done in a serious tone), and the super pretty cast is insulting to all nerds out there. It’s like having Hollywood’s top five sexiest men star in The Big Bang Theory. It just doesn’t make any sense. Project Almanac is the first big let down of 2015, and that’s weird because I really shouldn’t have been excited for this stinker to begin with.