Project Almanac

What would you get if you gave five teenagers the plans and equipment to build a time machine? You'd get this movie, pretty much, though of course you'd have to make sure that at least two or three of the five are very good at the techy stuff. A bunch of English geeks like me wouldn't have gotten very far at all. But face it, any high school kid given the chance to fix past mistakes is going to start out doing exactly the same things this bunch does -- redeem the botched class presentation, get to see that missed concert, and of course try again to get the girl who got away.

Getting the whole mess started is David (Jonny Weston, who was Kim's boyfriend in two scenes in Taken 3, and who will be in Insurgent), or more accurately David's now-deceased father (Gary Weeks, who will be in Jurassic World). He worked on extremely high-tech, secret, almost Fringe-like projects for the government, and he apparently left the main component of the time machine they were working on hidden in his basement. You'd think the government would have wanted that back, but anyway. Of course the kids find it, plus the plans to build the rest of the thing, and there we have it.

Also mixed up in the temporal paradoxes are David's sister and main camera operator, Chris (Virginia Gardner). It's mostly her fault that the entire movie is in shaky-cam, so fair warning to those who tend to get motion sickness. As with most found-footage-style movies, though, there's no logical reason for some of this stuff to have been recorded, so it's better not to think about that angle much. Then there's Jessie (Sofia Black-D'Elia), the girl David has a crush on, and David's best friends Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn (Sam Lerner, who here plays a character with the last name of Goldberg and is also in a TV series called The Goldbergs, except there he plays a character named Geoff Schwartz).

Anyway, they happen across time machine parts while hunting around for something that might get David the chance to go to MIT without his mother having to sell the house, and the project becomes something of an obsession for them. I have to admit, it would be pretty cool, at least until the first serious, mind-bending problems started happening, which wouldn't take long, as anyone who's ever watched Doctor Who is well aware. It doesn't take long here, either, though admittedly the whole Lallapalooza visit does seem to last forever, and not in a good way.

Other than that, though, the whole thing was a pleasant surprise, three and three-quarters out of five worth. The acting is solid, the time travel problems don't get too overwhelming, and while some of the cause-and-effect stuff seems like a stretch it still doesn't have even a fraction of the plot holes it might have had. It was a bit like watching Chronicle again, though less dark, and that's not a bad thing at all. This is a good sort of trend, these 'realisitic' sci-fi movies, though if the realistic 'camera flying all over the place' trend is also going to continue, theatres will have to start offering Dramamine at the concession stand.

Image: 
The boys demonstrate the proper safety gear for time travel experiments.

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