The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Project Almanac

Project Almanac (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Project Almanac (PG-13)

Teenagers find the instructions for and build a time machine in Project Almanac, an OK-ish butterfly-effect thriller about the joys of drawing on your one-day-younger self and the sorrows of realizing your fun trip to Lollapalooza caused scores of deaths.
All this just by going back a few days; nobody even got a chance to carry out one of the early stated goals of going back to kill Hitler.
Science-smarty David (Jonny Weston) finds out he has been accepted to MIT (yay!) but then (boo!) finds out he’s only being offered $5,000 in scholarships, not nearly enough to cover the roughly $56,000 annual price tag (tuition plus room and board) of the school. All bummer-faced, David heads up to the attic where Christina (Virginia Gardner), the seldom-seen slightly younger sister whose shaky-cam is filming everything in this “found footage”-style pic, finds him rummaging around in their late father’s stuff. David is hoping that he’ll find something that can serve as a project to help him apply for one more scholarship. Instead, they find an old video camera featuring some of the last footage their dad ever shot, a young David’s birthday party. Later, David gathers his buddies — Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) — to show them something odd he found on the tape: what appears to be an image of present-day David in the background of little David’s party. 
Because big David is going to the basement, the gang heads there and finds a time machine David and Christina’s father was working on as part of a top-secret military project before he died. (Sure, in the basement, behind the box of random mittens and next to the extra house paint — I know that’s where I’d keep my top-secret DARPA stuff, along with the jeans I’m saving because they might fit “some day.”) Naturally, the kids use the plans to hook the time machine up to a power source and, with the help of a battery from a hybrid car, they are able to go back in time. 
Because the car belongs to Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a popular girl David’s been crushing on, she joins the gang in their jumps back — first to a few hours earlier and then back days. To keep from destroying the universe (and to provide a source of conflict later on in the movie), the gang makes up some rules: they always go back together, record everything and they avoid their past selves (an encounter can cause a dangerous feedback loop). At first, the kids have fun — buying a winning lottery ticket to help David pay for college without his mom selling the family house, helping Quinn redo a chemistry test so as not to fail. But eventually, somebody steps on a butterfly and things in the future-present start to go haywire.
I’m not sure the science, even within the rules of the movie itself, hangs together all that well, but then again sticklers for the laws of physics probably shouldn’t go to movies about teenagers who find time machines in their basements. Taken as such, Project Almanac is kind of fun. Not “fun” fun, perhaps, but kind of fun, with its “what would you do” bits about the teens using time travel to fix their teenage problems (tests, bullies, kissing the girl at the right moment). “Found footage” as an entertaining story device is probably several films past “all done, thank you” but it isn’t too annoying here and mostly works with the way the movie unfolds its secrets. 
“Kind of fun” and “not too annoying” are not the high praise that you’ll see blurbed on a movie poster, but for a movie of this speed they’re enough to recommend it on some lazy day when you’re looking for light, low-impact entertainment. C+
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content. Directed by Dean Israelite and written by Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan, Project Almanac is an hour and 46 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

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