Starring: Amy Landecker, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Virginia Gardner, Allen Evangelista, Jonny Weston, Sam Lerner
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Written By: Andrew Deutschman, Jason Pagan
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 1 hr 46 min
Only one month into 2015, and I already have another contender for worst film of the year*. Project Almanac, where a group of teenagers build a time machine and use the most important discovery known in human history to fix middling issues they’re having at high school – what could possibly go wrong?
In the interest of fairness, I’ll admit this film is not aimed at the 40 something demographic (card-carrying member), and I personally have never been a huge fan of the found-footage genre. Especially when that style of film making is applied unnecessarily to other genres like science fiction. For horror films, it kinda makes sense, as it can add an extra ‘reel-listic’ dimension to a film designed to scare you. But during Project Almanac, I kept wondering how much better this film would have been if the camera wasn’t shaking all the time. Because despite how much I disliked this movie, its cast of characters were actually quite likable, if a little overly loud and manic.
The experience of watching this film can also be recreated at home without an expensive trip to the movie theater. Simply invite some friends over to your place. Then play Imagine Dragon’s song, Radioactive, at full volume. While the song is playing, loudly talk about your favorite time travel movies, and have your friends shout in your ear and slap you in the face. Record this experience for about 5 minutes, and then play back the footage on a loop for just under two hours. Voila!
Time travel plots have been done to death at the movies, and Project Almanac makes no attempt to add anything new to that overly exploited ‘what if’ question. It also has nothing new to say about the experience of high school, or being a teenager. The found-footage aspect of this film is just an annoying distraction, and is even completely unrealistic as it’s applied to the characters in this story. Who films themselves surfing the web? And what average hand-held camera is going to pick up a private conversation between two people thirty feet away in a crowd, or sitting in a car with the doors closed?
* Blackhat was the first!
If you’ve enjoyed other found footage movies like Earth to Echo, or Chronicle (I did enjoy that one), and you just can’t get enough time travel stories – then by all means take this on. This movie will likely appeal more to the high school aged demographic.
Found-footage movies aren’t really super visual spectacles that need a big screen. This film can wait for a rental or streaming show at home on your TV, laptop, tablet or phone.
This film would have been a lot better if it were filmed in the more traditional way. As a ‘found-footage’ project though, it’s an obnoxious mess.