Director Dean Israelite's “Project Almanac” is one of those time travel movies that you rent for a weekend view and wake up only to try and re-watch it because it put you to sleep. It’s a film that you stay awake in the theater to watch because you paid $11+ for. It starts out fun, but winds up collapsing in on its own confusing rules of time travel.
David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is a brilliant senior in high school who just got accepted to MIT. Unfortunately, MIT’s financial aid isn’t enough to get him in, but if he can come up with an amazing project/experiment it just may help. David sets out to find an idea for an experiment by digging around in his father’s old work in the attic. His father, who died mysteriously on the day of his 7th birthday party, just happened to be a super brilliant, secret government contractor.
With the help of his friends Quinn (Sam Lerner), Adam (Allen Evangelista), and sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), David begins tinkering with a mystery box they find in the basement with instructions entitled Project Almanac. The film starts out as exciting as discovering a time machine should be. On an old camera with footage from David’s 7th birthday they catch a glimpse of the present 17 year old David in a mirror at the party, confirming to them that it works. (Did anyone notice the ink stain is on the wrong side of his shirt in the footage and that’s never explained?) At first they take small controlled steps and make things go back in time. Along the way the prettiest girl in school, Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia), happens to walk in on an experiment to give us a little love story in the film, and gets to join the crew.
The problem with “Project Almanac” is that the writing has the attention span of its’ teenage characters. Once they start pushing time travel past an hour to days and weeks (which takes far too long), things start to get confusing. Trust me, you don’t have to explain too much to me in a time travel movie, my suspension of disbelief is in high gear, but you do have to explain why the world you return to after jumping is vastly different. As the traveling becomes more frequent and less methodical, the screenwriters ask you to pay attention to certain things and then throw it out the window. It’s as though after brainstorming ideas of what teenagers would do with a time machine, they forgot to figure out how to string those ideas and important subtleties into a fulfilling movie.
As you can guess, things get out of control toward the end. David does what he thinks must be done to fix things, but the final scene of the film once again undermines everything that was done before it. This is one time travel movie you can save yourself the trouble and time of viewing.