IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 106 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 2014, 17-year-old high school senior and aspiring inventor David Raskin is admitted into MIT, but is unable to afford its tuition. Looking for something he can use to get a scholarship, he finds a video recording made by his inventor father Ben on the day he died, David’s 7th birthday, and briefly spots his 17-year-old self in a reflection. Working from blueprints of a ‘temporal relocation device’ that Ben was developing for the military, he and his friends build a time machine, and successfully send a toy car back in time…..
The Found Footage horror movie is pretty much a spent force so the technique is being increasingly employed elsewhere. The release of Project Almanac, which was originally called Cinema One, Almanac [surely a Back To The Future 2 reference] and Welcome To Yesterday, was held up for around a year, which is not normally a good thing, and it seems to have had only a middling reception, but actually it’s a rather good little time travel tale that, despite its teen characters and often extremely shaky camera, I’m surprised isn’t pleasing more fans of this type of story. The Found Footage method neither weakens nor strengthens things. Project Almanac didn’t really need to be Found Footage, and like many films of this type you have to assume that somebody has been able to compile, edit and even add music to the material which they have access to, as well as wonder why the person with the camera doesn’t put the bloody thing down. There were sections though where I almost forgot I was watching a Found Footage picture, because it really was working very well, even though one really does have to suspend disbelief throughout, like how a bunch of teenagers can build a time machine, and it’s funny how they are aware of culture’s time-travel touchstones throughout, yet fail to heed other movies’ consistent warnings against altering the course of history.
Though our teenage protagonists are mostly from stock, they’re well played by a largely unknown cast and it’s nice how they use the time machine to change their lives for the better, from one guy becoming rich through finding out lottery numbers to another winning the girl of his dreams in Groundhog Day fashion. Of course, much like the guy in that Ray Bradbury story which inspired so many time travel tales, that hunter whose accidental crushing of a butterfly in prehistoric times creates huge changes in the present day, all the altering of events causes a Butterfly Effect [though there’s no actor as bad as Ashton Kutcher in this movie] and events take a darker tone. The film is saddled with a slightly muddled ending and dumb final line which smack of reshoots, but it has considerable charm and even some sweetness, with the cutest: “Will they, won’t they” situation in a film in quite a while. Project Almanac could have done with more depth, but as Found Footage science-fiction movies go, it’s at least as good as last year’s equally undervalued Earth To Echo. It’s fast, it’s fun, has some heart, and at least makes an effort to be clever.