ByJames McDonald, writer at
James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
James McDonald

A group of teens discover secret plans of a time machine, and construct one. However, things start to get out of control.

I had been looking forward to seeing “Project Almanac” ever since I saw the first trailer a while back. I love time travel movies, the thought of being able to go back in time and change whatever you want I’m sure appeals to all of us. Granted, all it takes is just one thing to change and that one aspect could have catastrophic results which could result in a paradoxial disruption in the space-time Continuum!!! Or something like that. And the fact that the entire movie is shot through the lens of a video camera and a bunch of iPhones, doesn’t help things in any way. “The Blair Witch Project” had more steady shots than this film and that is indeed saying something.

I detest the handheld approach to filmmaking, it is a gimmick that I personally feel worked for “The Blair Witch Project” along with its subject matter and then ended with the same movie. Films like “The Bourne Supremacy,” “Paranormal Activity” and now “Project Almanac,” had most of the people in the theater turning away from the screen with headaches accompanied by nausea and the last time I checked, the whole point in making a movie is so your audience will actually look at the screen and not in the opposite direction. This criticism aside however, what I did manage to see onscreen, I really liked. The cast was likable and they were your typical, everyday high school teenagers.

One day, siblings Jonny (David Raskin) and Christina (Virginia Gardner) are rummaging through their attic when they find their father’s old video camera. This eventually leads them to the basement where they find a contraption that he was working on before he died, hidden in a secret compartment under the floor. Having just been accepted into MIT, Jonny has no trouble following his father’s rather cryptic instructions and a few weeks later, they have built a time machine. Along with three of their friends, they manage to go back in time by a few hours and then a day, a week, months and eventually, years. Initially, everything is perfect for the group.

They are able to go back and pass exams they originally failed, win millions on the lottery, attend Lollapalooza and David insists that if there are going to be any time jumps, they must all be present, no solo trips. Everyone agrees but when a moment presents itself to David, to kiss Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), the girl of his dreams, he chickens out and she slowly loses interest. Nothing he does can change her mind so against his own rule, he jumps back in time alone, rectifies the situation and returns, only to find that things have changed. Realizing that it was his solo trip that must have messed everything up, he time jumps again, fixes what he thinks is the issue and returns once more.

Naturally, things have only gotten worse and David finally realizes, that in order for everything to return to normal, he must destroy the machine and in order to do so, he must travel back further in time than any of them have gone and risk his own life in the process. The kids in the film are likable and typical. Given the fantastic opportunity to time travel, they do what most kids would do, win the lottery, help their family and friends, technically cheat at passing exams but they never deliberately hurt others, even when one is being bullied at school, she exacts her revenge by simply pouring soda over her oppressors and I liked that aspect of the movie, that they were decent human beings.

But naturally, time travel is something that, given the recourse to do so, would have to be done very meticulously and not the haphazard manner in which these kids gradually become accustomed to doing so. The story has a nice twist at the end that actually has you thinking about it long after the credits have rolled and considering that Michael Bay produced it, I was actually relieved when the screen was not set ablaze every five minutes by enormous explosions and car chases. Had the movie been shot in a conventional manner, I would have given it higher marks but the ‘found footage’ niche that it will undoubtedly be placed into, is one that I still can’t believe studios are using in the hopes of getting a return on their investment.

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