It is a matter of the natural order of things that his son should inherit his father. On the most fundamental level this occurs through the transmission of genetic traits one generation to the next. Perhaps it’s the material inheritance as well as the father passing his dreams and passions onto his heir that makes the largest impact. For many young men this might encompass such things as financial security or favorite watch. For the young man depicted in the film considered here, ‘Project Almanac’, it was something far more interesting and quite unique; it means to transverse time itself. The concept of having a high school student gaining access to a time travel device is by no means new, in 2002 Nickelodeon released ‘Clockstoppers’ a humorous and decidedly family-friendly movie. Assigned MPA a rating decidedly indicate that this film will not be a dark piece although it does contain an increased amount of sexual tension and explore some of the more catastrophic ramifications of indiscriminately altering a timeline. Before proceeding it should be noted that despite intriguing premise and as a matter of design the requisite highly attractive cast this offering fall short of reaching its full potential. That having been said, it is adequately entertaining to serve as a reasonable popcorn flick for Saturday afternoon. So many action movies encourage the cinematic juggernauts, movies based on comic books, ‘Project Almanac’, serves in a similar capacity to a light sherbet served between courses of a fine meal. It provides a refreshing change of pace from the films that require your full attention to fully embrace all it has to offer. In a less complicated time this would be the kind of film we would travel to the local theater to help pass the time. If you adjust your expectations back to your youth and having a good time for outweighed the analysis of style, substance and presentation, you will notice that you can get significantly more out of this story.
The story revolving around time travel is more critical than usual to establish a starting point, in this instance its contemporary, 2014. David Raskin (Jonny Weston), is a senior in high school with an exceptional aptitude for science and a perchance for inventions. Although he achieved the highly lauded acceptance to MIT but his family’s financial situation makes it impossible for him to meet the heavy load of derision and living expenses. His mother, Kathy Raskin (Amy Landecker), not wanting her son to miss out is such an extraordinary opportunity decides to sell the family home. Before it’s time to leave David first wants to examine his father’s belongings. Preferring not to do this alone request help those closest to him; his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and his friends Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner). David’s father, Ben Raskin (Gary Weeks), was an inventor whose life ended as a result of a car crash when David on David’s seventh birthday. David hopes up on something of value that can go towards his education and during the search find the old video camera that contains a recording of that faithful birthday. While watching it he notices reflection in the mirror that he cannot explain; an image of his 17-year-old self. Digging deeper into the belongings the uncover set of blueprints for the price listed as a ‘temporal relocation device’, or in the more common parlance, a time machine. As it turns out Ben was working for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Founded in the Cold War this was the government’s answer to exploring and subsequently exploiting science on the fringe of current understanding. By pilfering the materials they need for construction, including some from their high school and a car battery from David’s crush, Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black D'Elia), successfully completing construction. The first test is to go back in time to the day before, surreptitiously entering Quinn’s home, stealing a toy car and drawing a ‘ smiley face on the back of Quinn’s neck while he is sleeping; simultaneously the markings appear on his own head. This is a clear indication to the audience that helps to find the contacts and rules that this particular time travel story. Changes made to the past will ripple through to the present. Another important caveat is found when ‘past Quinn’ awakens and catches a glimpse of ‘future Quinn’ erasing them both on that timeline. The quintet agreed to use time travel for personal gain on the condition that they always go together.
The temporal missions reflect the self-serving and rather juvenile mindset. Christina gets revenge on some kids bullying her while goes back in order to win a lottery. Quinn rectifies a botched chemistry exam acing it to the benefit of his academic future. Seeking a bit of fun go back the group go back three months in order to attend a large pop concert, Lollapalooza, leaving David to seek a more emotionally beneficial change. He goes back in to alter the course of his relationship with Jesse ensuring they become a couple. Upon his return the cadre discovers that the actions of had decidedly negative repercussions. The blackout caused by one of the early tests results in a star basketball player getting into an accident and breaking his leg which results in the team losing the championship. The people who would’ve attended the championship game go to all the places instead. One of these people happens to be a pilot for commercial airline who winds up crashing his plane. David attempts to go back in time again to rectify the cascading events that led to such tragedy. Upon his return Adam is in critical condition after being run over by a car. Each back in time intended to correct the mistake results in a domino effect leaving the timeline worse off than ever.
The basic directorial style utilized here is one of my least favorite as it is widely overused, found footage. It may have started out as an interesting point of view approach to relating a story. As deployed here becomes a course more as a distraction, unable to provide strong and consistent narrative. In any movie that depends on shifting timelines and altered realities, is more critical than ever to maintain a strong central narrative in order to ensure the audience remains properly in the context that is being established. What does happen to work successfully is that the preternaturally attractive cast manages to establish a realistic chemistry near dynamic as a group at large as a whole and, perhaps more importantly, between the individual members. This allows the filmmaker to the attention of the audience from the inevitable inconsistency of time travel as a central theme to a character driven story. This is basically the first feature-length film for director Dean Israelite. It is also the freshman effort writing team of the writing team of Jason Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. Considering the creative people behind the film are still very much on the learning curve this movie must be considered an admirable effort despite its flaws. In most artistic disciplines it is fairly routine to initially tackle subject matter will covered previously. This permits the burgeoning artist to apply their own vision upon a known quantity and, if they are wise, seriously consider the inevitable constructive criticism will follow. Supporting this notion that the director and writers still are experimenting in their stylistic choices, and alternate opening and endings are provided among the extras.