“Project Almanac” isn’t Worth the Trip

Paramount Pictures

There’s just something about dead fathers leaving their genius children dangerous machines that Hollywood seems to love. The cliché is yet again found in the new film “Project Almanac” otherwise known as the “time traveling movie.” That appears to be it’s only merit, along with fresh faces that work in an otherwise frustrating film.

David Raskin (Jonny Weston) has just been admitted to MIT with the help of his two friends, Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) and Adam Le (Allen Evangelista). Yet with a surprisingly low financial aid package, he’s left to scramble to make things work as he tries for that one last scholarship. He searches through his father’s old inventions for something he can base his work off of and as luck would have it, he comes out with the secret plans for “temporal relocation.” If time travel doesn’t get this kid a free ride to MIT, I don’t know what will.

David’s younger sister, Kathy (Amy Landecker), films their progress as the machine comes to life. Along the way, popular girl Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D’Elia) joins the crowd (because there always has to be a love interest, right?) on a whirlwind of trips to win the lottery, gain payback on school bullies, and ace that chemistry oral exam. Killing Hitler is mentioned, but they can’t travel that far back with their machine that’s basically a tricked out Xbox. As if they have never seen any sort of time traveling movie or heard of the “butterfly effect,” things begin to ripple as they change the course of history, creating problems within their own lives and around the world. All very standard time travel plot lines.

This is not what makes the film frustrating. In fact, the story is nicely complemented by the fresh-faced cast. All of the newcomers actually appear like high schoolers instead of young adults with perfect skin and toned abs. Oh no, it is not their fault this film falls into the “wait until it hits Netflix” category. Instead it is the ever-popular “found-footage” camera angle that degrades this movie.

It’s no surprise that this film comes from the creators of “Project X” which used a similar shaky handheld scope. Maybe this works for a certain type of movie, like “Paranormal Activity” where it actually compliments the storyline. Here it is just a big distraction. It wasn’t the missed shots or unusual angles that bothered me most, it was the lost potential. This film would have been so much better in a traditional film format, with more opportunities for special effects and less low-tank top shots of the constant camerawoman Kathy.

Put aside the annoying shaking and sometimes predictable twists, you get a genuine experience watching the actors interact together. The only possible upside to this handheld-camera film is that it enhances the real-life way the actors portrayed their characters as high school friends. So while you may be tempted to find out more about their journey to Lollapalooza or just how it all comes crashing down, save your money and wait a few months to Redbox it.