Project Almanac

Posted by Joel Copling on January 29, 2015

There were really three distinct thoughts running through my head during "Project Almanac." The first was that its characters--especially, though not exclusively, its main one--are not nearly as smart as their seeming reputation would have one think. The opening sequence showcases our protagonist David's (Jonny Weston) smarts in the science department; he has crafted a machine controllable by a group of dots glued to his hand and hooked into his iPhone's Wi-Fi. It's believable, then, that he would be able to piece together a time machine later using a strange-looking device and the blueprints he found in his dad's basement floor. Less believable is when love interest Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D'Elia), who tags along on his adventures by complete accident, suggests he move from transporting a collectible toy car sixty seconds into the past to moving humans years into the past and he obliges. The scientific method, after all, is merely a hurdle to jump for a student wanting to attend MIT, right?

So these are not exactly teenagers with their heads on straight. No, we shouldn't expect them to be as forward-thinking as adults on any matter, let alone something like time travel, but this is some remarkable short-sightedness, and it leads into my second thought pretty nicely: This movie's priorities are all out of wack. It's never more prominent than in two sequences, one of them very long (much too long, in fact) and the other decidedly not. The former is a stint at Lollapalooza that feels endless and, by the end, accomplishes and means nothing; the latter is the conclusion, which is basically a jumble of images and ideas that never cohere. You'd think the movie would be more keen on explaining what, exactly, is going on here, but no, we must travel back three weeks to see the performance of a popular song from 2014.

The lack of priorities translates, also, to David's other friends (Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista) and sister (Ginny Gardner), none of whom receives even a remotely acceptable amount of character development. At least they don't call attention to themselves for being a hateful bunch, which leads into my third thought: "Project Almanac" is entirely disposable. This is not something to aspire to in the case of any sci-fi effort related to time travel, but alas, the irregular ability to piece together its own logic is only impressive for about an hour, at which point it is thrown out, along with the characters' common sense. At least they got to see a three-week-old Imagine Dragons concert?

Film Information

Jonny Weston (David Raskin), Sofia Black-D'Elia (Jessie Pierce), Sam Lerner (Quinn Goldberg), Allen Evangelista (Adam Le), Ginny Gardner (Christina Raskin), Amy Landecker (Kathy Raskin), Gary Weeks (Ben Raskin).

Directed by Dean Israelite and written by Andrew Stark and Jason Pagan.

Rated PG-13 (language, sexual content).

106 minutes.

Released on January 30, 2015.