Project Almanac movie full length review - Good idea that could have excelled but didn't
Some genius high school kid named David-what else--is accepted to MIT but only gets a $5000 scholarship. His mother has no job, his dad died years ago, and they are about to lose the house.
He aims to invent something that will bring in some cash. His cute sister Chris finds an old camera with a tape of his 7th birthday. On it he sees himself as a teen in a reflection in the mirror. He shows the tape to his other smart friends Adam and Goldberg. They search the basement where his father worked and find a hidden compartment that has a case with some machine in it and blueprints and research. The dad used to work for DARPA and apparently invented a time travel machine.
So in the next few minutes the kids hectically rebuild the machine with an amazing dexterity and competence as if they've done this a hundred times before. After some problems they get a toy car to travel in time--so they say. They needed a lot of energy for the machine to work and borrowed another girl's (Jessie) hybrid car battery without her consent. She walks in during the experiment and for some reason is promptly accepted into the group. She suggest that they should be the next subjects to time travel rather than an animal or a vegetable. And sure enough they succeed to travel back to the day before.
With this power they discuss what they want to do with the power. They also establish some rules, mainly, only to "jump" as a group and never alone. Chris wants to get back at her bully, Goldberg wants to pass a chemistry test he failed, and they want money so they win the lottery but screw up and only get 5 out of 6 numbers. Goldberg buys a Maserati and parties. By now they've made the machine portable and are able to jump farther back in time. They also realize that when they meet their past selves they start dissolving.
Now they go back to Lollapalooza and have a great time. Jessie hints at her love for David but he doesn't get it so back in the present she distances himself. That forces him to break the rules and go back by himself and accept her love. When he returns, it's catastrophe--both for the kids and the movie itself. Some school team lost a game, a plane crashed in Europe. Adam figures this was all because they went back to Lollapalooza but David knows that all this is his fault. It's because he went back by himself that caused all this!? So, of course the solution is to make things worse by going back by himself again and trying to fix the root of the problem. When he returns, Adam is in the hospital, so he goes back again accidentally with Jessie and she meets her past self and her present self vanishes. When he returns he's the main suspect in her disappearance. So he decides to go back and remove the source of the troubles, the machine.
Project Almanac has a great idea, which I understand "borrows" too heavily from Back to the Future. Like Chronicle--another action thriller about kids with powers, it adds the lost footage style, at least with crisp resolution and no green nightvision. I welcome POV movies that aren't horror movies. Initially the movie is too frantic; it's obnoxious to see some kids deal with something they have no clue about as if they're absolute experts. In any case, the part that should be fun, namely the kids having fun with their power, falls flat, and the movie makers themselves apparently became exhausted by their own initial frenzy. Never has there been a movie that has made kids having fun so un-fun, as when they go to Lollapalooza. And then of course when things get complicated, this movie like all POV movies rather than broadening the ideas, they narrow things down to the life of the one kid, and his single action that provokes global mayhem.
You can't make a time travel movie without leaving plot holes and this movie has at least two giant ones. The ending, too, comes out of nowhere and is more concerned with opening things up for a sequel than in being internally consistent. While the casting of the male actors makes no sense to me, at least the girls are lovely, especially Virginia Gardner who unfortunately has to spend almost the entire movie "behind" the camera, "filming everything." Project Almanac could have been a pretty good movie, but laziness and complacency led to a rather formulaic movie.