On Friday night, Dan and I purchased ticket online for a late showing of The Loft at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. We arrived early and ate dinner at Stella Barra Pizzeria, a great choice for a pre/post movie meal. The flat-bread pizza is amazing! When we finished eating, we realized that we still had an hour to kill before our movie, so we made a quick decision to swap our tickets for Project Almanac, rather than wait.
We had not seen a trailer for Project Almanac and we went into it clueless. We thought that it might be a sequel to the 2012 film, Chronicle, which it unfortunately, wasn't.
PLOT - David Raskin is a super smart teen who has just been accepted to MIT, the only problem is he cannot afford the tuition. In efforts to stop his mom from putting their family home on the market to pay for his tuition, he tries to figure out a way to raise the money himself. His best option is a scholarship based on creating an invention. David's father died in a car wreck on David's seventh birthday, but his father left a basement filled with his invention ideas. This area has been left untouched since his father's death, but David decides that he might find an idea for his scholarship, if he looks through his father's projects. In the basement, he finds plans for a time machine and a video tape from his seventh birthday party, where a teenage David appears on the tape. Taking this as a sign that the time machine is real, David rounds up his two best friends and younger sister to build the machine and go back in time to solve their problems.
LIKE - The one positive that I can give for Project Almanac, is that I was never bored. Although utterly ridiculous, it's entertaining. The film was well cast and the teens seemed like regular kids, rather than a Hollywood version of high schoolers. There were a few comedic moments that made me laugh, in particular when the kids travel back in time to resolve their issues in school, like dealing with bullies and passing tests.
DISLIKE - This movie is a mess. It takes itself very seriously, especially with the romance between David and Jessie, the seemingly out-of-his-league girl that David has a crush on. The teen love drama was very overdrawn and drifted into Twilight territory. The tone is odd, sometimes shifting from a serious romance to a comedy.
The were just many things that seemed silly. Like why would top-secret government time travel info be in a basement that was left untouched until David finally decided to take a look? It was implied that he wasn't allowed to go through his father's stuff, but then there was zero consequence for it. The kids destroyed the basement and made a ton of noise, yet the mom never noticed? Are the kids even old enough to win the lottery? The time travel dates didn't line up. According to the film, it was March and they were going to travel back three months to attend Lollapalooza...which would mean that they were attending it in December on the East Coast? It must have been a warm winter, as they were all wearing tank tops and shorts. This drove me nuts.
The film is told entirely thought a handheld video camera, so there are the shaky camera movements. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. There are many moments where the action is so intense, that there is just no way that they would be recording. Or why would they be recording normal things like their time in class? It doesn't add up. Besides being off from a story telling POV, the handheld camera gimmick is overdone and headache inducing.
RECOMMEND - No. Maybe for teens. Project Almanac is an MTV Films production and it seemed like something that they will be able to air in heavy rotation on their network. It's mild too, really no need to even do much editing for television. It probably should have been a made-for-TV movie, rather than a theatrical release. I think some teens might like it, but it seemed like a majority of the audience members, including teens, were walking out of the theater and giving it thumbs down. It's simply not a very good story.