A nice surprise. So when a senior in high school (Jonny Weston) stumbles across an old camera in the attic that has footage of an old birthday party, he sees the current version of himself crashing the party in the background. He shows this to his group of friends, and it is not long before they are picking up his father’s plans to successfully build a time machine. First impressions and looking at the trailer, this appeared to be another one of those films that is trying to get that Chronicle money. I know I missed it, but from what I’m told, Earth to Echo is the same way. It’s kids in high school, dealing with some sort of science fiction element. On paper, it may seem like a carbon copy, and while Chronicle does ultimately have the better actors, Project Almanac manages to stand on its own, and if you are a fan of the found footage subgenre, you’re going to like what you see.
Project Almanac has a number of elements working for it that gives it a surprising fluency. For one thing, there is this great feeling of discovery to it, and you end up being just as wowed as these kids are. It is easy for you to feel this way because the special effects are actually pretty good looking, and they sell it to the point of you buying it, which is even more impressive because the budget on this is just $12 million, which is meager by Hollywood standards. Also, I did appreciate that they didn’t use their powers for world domination, which is how you would expect this to play out if you’re cynical, or have seen Back to the Future Part II too many times. They just use their power to have a good time, like going to a music festival that they wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise, due to schooling.
And also to win the lottery, but who wouldn’t do that?
All positives aside, it’s not a perfect film. They make a point of explaining why they’re recording everything before the second act starts, but for much of the first act, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of practical sense on why they wouldn’t just put the camera down. The science isn’t something I would call tight (they’re pretty reckless with the whole space-time continuum thing), but it’s never dwelled upon long enough for you to nitpick to pieces. Also, while it didn’t bother me personally, I can see people getting frustrated with this ultimately being a love story; it didn’t bother me in Cloverfield, and it doesn’t bother me here, but I would understand a viewer being annoyed at somebody having so much power, only to use it to try and get the girl. If teenagers really get on your nerves, this might rub you the wrong way, but I thought the way everybody is acting here is very appropriate for being in high school. For a movie I had no expectations on, I really enjoyed this to the point of giving this an enthusiastic recommendation.
Project Almanac (2015) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire