Teens trip through time in Project Almanac

by Mark Burger

“Are you telling me Dad left a time machine in the basement?” That’s one of the more memorable lines in Project Alamanac, a found-footage, teen-friendly, sci-fi head-spinner “” and it’s not an inaccurate assessment of the situation at hand.

Jonny Weston plays the whiz kid who, using his late father’s plans, builds a device capable of “temporal relocation,” aided and abetted by brainy buddies Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista, younger sister Virginia Gardner (in her screen debut), and class beauty . The characters aren’t very nuanced but the young actors are personable enough, and this being a Michael Bay production both Gardner and D’Elia tend to favor sexy tops and short shorts.

Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman’s screenplay is rife with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and the occasional in-joke (to glean pointers about time travel, the kids are shown in one scene watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure!), while first-time director Dean Israelite keeps things moving at a steady clip.

There’s the old adage that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, but in the case of Project Almanac, those who remember the past are condemned to repeat it, because they have the technology to do so. However, for all the fun excursions back in time “” whether to win the lottery, pass an important exam, best a school bully or attend Lollapalooza (replete with back-stage credentials) “” there are consequences. With each jaunt, history is changed in some way. Repeat attempts to “correct” history only result in further, sometimes more severe repercussions. A lot of time-travel films are rife with plot holes of their own construction, but Project Almanac is all about those holes.

This is one of those movies where it’s best not to ponder the details and simply enjoy it for what it is – a colorful, sometimes inspired teen romp that doesn’t insult its genre and revels in toying with the trappings. The found-footage approach is, as usual, an unnecessary gimmick, but it’s less annoying than usual. Besides, for a film that spends a good deal of time in a basement, it’s a relief that no one gets tortured or slaughtered, as is so common of found-footage fare. !