The two genres I have the most pet peeves with, time travel and found footage. Good luck guys, you’re gonna need it.
“Project Almanac” is a found footage, time travel movie about a group of high school friends who stumble onto an temporal displacement invention, and what happens when messing with their own timelines becomes more momentous than they ever could have imagined. It’s a movie about friendship, choices, loss, and the desire to change our own history with a little bit of Bill and Ted and Fast Times at Ridgemont High thrown in for good measure. But does it work?
Well, I’ll give it this, this flick is pretty entertaining through a lot of it. These kids are really likable and you can feel the camaraderie in everything that they do. Newcomer Jonny Weston is great and leads the cast well, and you can just feel the fun flying off the screen. Plus I really dug the story concept. It’s not as if we haven’t seen these time travel ideas before, but the way this tale plays with them does feel fresh and inventive at times. Sure, there’s the typical techno mumbo jumbo that is meant to sound just understandable enough that it might be real, and just complicated enough that we don’t have to grasp it to buy into it, but I think here I’m willing to forgive all that and just go along with it because of the fun and interesting ride. I’m even willing to forgive the, by this point, expected time travel paradoxes and inconsistencies that come in any time travel film where you can “change things”. The kinetic and tightly told story seemed to be enough to mollify my often logic distracted brain. But what I just couldn’t look past, was the found footage gimmick once again rearing its ugly head.
And cue the part where Aaron sounds like a broken record. It’s just unnecessary! It’s not clever anymore, its not fresh anymore, and its not even a useful story construct anymore. The purposefully lousy camera work and forced, “oh look, here’s why a camera is shooting this” nonsense does nothing but distract and create eye rolling moments, where key plot points and conversations just happen to be caught on tape. Yes, I know that home footage is a key part of this plot, but why, oh dear God why, does every single shot have to be as if a character shot it? Mix it up a bit! Shoot some found footage where it benefits the story, and some old school film framing where it makes more sense. Are you still seriously trying to fool the audience into thinking this whole thing was “caught on tape”? No? Then why not use some actual camera work with your found footage movie? Who knows, you might actually allow the audience to believe they are watching an actual movie instead of worn out, useless, and counter productive gimmick. OK, so I get a little bit worked up about this, but it’s cases like this that are the most frustrating because I think there could be a great little movie hiding here under all the shaky camera work.
Overall, “Project Almanac” is wonderfully acted, entertaining, and clever time travel story wasted by being forced into a found footage shell. The eye rolling results make it impossible for me to go back in time and change this to anything better than a B-