MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Project Almanac’ Is Found Footage Fun

project alamanac

Film: Project Almanac
Directed By: Dean Israelite
Starring: Jonny Weston, Sofia Black D’Elia, Sam Lerner

Teenage hormones are abound in this Michael Bay-produced effort about a group of young’ns grappling with the dangers of time travel. Adopting the found footage aesthetic of many features, Project Almanac attempts and mostly succeeds at taking something weary in cinema and breathing an EDM-laden breath directly onto the screen. Sure, a large amount of the humor is generational and caters to people in their younger years, but this effective little film veers from a tired path in a thrilling (albeit a bit predictable) way.

High school senior and technical genius David Raskin (Chasing Maverick’s Jonny Weston) just got into MIT like he always wanted. The catch is that his family can’t afford it. While rummaging around looking at his deceased father’s old science experiments, David discovers something peculiar. With the help of his sister Christina (The Goldbergs‘ Virginia Gardner), best friends Adam & Quinn (Allen Evangelista & Sam Lerner, respectively), and the girl he has feelings for, Jessie Pierce (Gossip Girl‘s Sofia Black-D’elia), the troupe stumble onto the great power of time travel. Of course, they start to abuse the power given and history changes for the worse.

To clearly explain why Project Almanac may appeal much more to a younger generation, here are some things to take note of. This movie is made in a universe where teenagers take videos of every waking moment of their life, whether it is on a cell phone camera or on a Go-Pro fastened to a backpack strap. To properly imitate all of the found footage films before it, this one displays corrupted footage almost every time the five-some teleport to some other point in time than the present. This group of teenagers also pines for things like attending music festivals, becoming the most popular kids at school, and buying the most fancy cars.

Luckily though, Project Almanac gets laden with some pretty universal things to enjoy. Whether you went to high school 2 years ago or 55 years ago, you may find yourself identifying with the social struggles that these teens suffer from. I’m guessing that everyone can remember that one teacher you couldn’t stand and fantasized of getting payback on. The same thing goes with bullies. All of the well-known gripes people had with high school are put up on display here to successful comedic chagrin.

Even when things take a turn for the dangerous, Project Almanac’s cast of characters help move the narrative along at breakneck speed. Weston, Gardner, Evangelista, Lerner, and Black-D’elia all work great with each other. Their verbal banter feels fresh but not forced and their performances never feel like they are tired tropes of high school students. The plot even gets elevated because the teens themselves never do anything outrageous that could be mistaken for something like Project X.

With a lot of films nowadays, the powers that be behind film projects seem to think that the viewers need the constant reminder of events that took place before a specific point in the film. Project Almanac suffers the most from unnecessary montages that serve only the people who decide to take long and sustained bathroom breaks while the film runs.

Another detriment to an otherwise decent film is the way that it concludes. As events ramp up and the narrative emulates a snake that eats its own tail, the viewer may be looking for a totally different resolution than what they’re given. Starting out with the common struggle of getting the girl and into the college you want is cool. Kyboshing that sort of material may completely alter whatever the film is trying to do. And here, that’s exactly what happens.

For once, a Michael Bay-produced film is subdued instead of explosive, playful instead of overtly goofy, and only overstays its welcome a little bit. For something releasing in the graveyard of the cinematic calendar year, Project Almanac is worth your time.

GRADE: B-

Review written by Sam Cohen (follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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