When done creatively and in a vividly original way, the found footage format -- or POV -- can still work. Films such as 21 and Over utilize it all sorts of wrong. But with Project Almanac, arguably geared towards the same audience, it adds something to the found footage party.
This is a story about a group of high school kids who stumble on one of their father’s inventions. It’s a time machine. It’s not quite ready, but with their smarts and determination, the thing eventually works. And as anyone who has been around teenagers knows, giving them that kind of power to alter the time-space continuum is and never will be a good idea.
And there you have our drama, except Project Almanac works on it in such a way that the complicated layers of time travel storytelling (check out our top 25 time travel movies) are so intertwined that the web that our characters weave and time altered trail they leave behind, smartly adds up to an enormous mess that is this side of impossible to fix.
A good time travel movie will have you leaving the theater and making sure that it all adds up. It’s natural to reflect and try to figure out if all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. What is so smart in Project Almanac is that director Dean Israelite, from a script by Andrew Deutschman and Jason Pagan, shows us our end game right from the beginning. Heck, it’s even in the Project Almanac trailer!
Before we even know that David Raskin’s (Jonny Weston) father left an incomplete time machine that could work, David and his friends are looking at an old video tape from a childhood birthday. Upon freeze-framing a moment, they realize that in the video is a current day him reflecting in a mirror as the young him dives into his birthday cake!
See, we know it's all about that moment. Even as they do things that teens would do with the time machine, i.e. turn failing tests into aced exams, alleviating money problems by winning the lottery, and going back and experiencing a Lollapalooza that they wished they had attended, the audience knows that David has to return to his childhood birthday party at some point.
But, then we get into the mind-bending nature of time travel movies. Which came first, the time travel or the birthday party video? Or, was it the video that spurred the time travel back to David’s youth? Or, even better, after their various leaps of time have created practical chaos in our world, does going back to a simple childhood birthday party fix it all?
Can you fix it all?
Our Project Almanac review promises that if you want a movie that is thrilling and tense, this found footage flick is more like Chronicle than say, 21 and Over. It’s not perfect by any means. But in a sub-genre of film that sorely needs a fresh thought, having kids who are obsessed with video taping everything they do, go through what this group of friends go through with time travel, well, we’ll take it and gladly go on the ride.
Which are our favorite found footage movies? Watch Chronicle online ... there's one!