Find out if the latest young adult time-travel effort is all it’s hyped up to be.

by Steve Pulaski

You may remember last year seeing previews for what looked to be a wild, chaotic ride through the ins and outs of time-travel; the film was called Welcome to Yesterday and proudly boasted Michael Bay as the producer and looked as if it would be the defining time travel film for the teenage crowd. Despite rampant advertising – I recall seeing the trailer at least four times with a huge standee at my local theater – the film never came out when it was originally slated to and was pushed back till January 2015, arriving under the title Project Almanac with far less publicity than initially conceived.

Project Almanac
Directed by
Dean Israelite
Amy Landecker, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Virginia Gardner
Release Date
30 January 2015
Steve’s Grade: B

One thing I can assume is that the quality of the film wasn’t drastically altered with the delay because, as it sits, Project Almanac is a lot of fun for a film about the tired and often simplified concept of time travel. Here’s a film that cycles through all the elements of time travel, from the excitement, the mystery, the painstaking construction of such a machine, and the sheer agony that can result from chronological manipulation and personal greed. Who would’ve thought that with numerous mediocre films about the concept that a group of adolescents would be the one to do it right and take it seriously.

The film revolves around Jonny Weston’s David Raskin, a teenage genius with ambitions to study physics at MIT. The film opens with him and his lifelong best friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) taking part in submitting a video to MIT showing off David’s creative, physical engineering talents, with David’s sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) filming. The video leads to David’s acceptance to MIT but doesn’t result in a very strong scholarship, with David’s mother putting the house up for sale since their finances are less than stellar after the death of her husband.

One day, while watching old videos from his birthday party, David notices his teenage self in the mirror at his seventh birthday party. From the hair, the clothes, and the physical appearance, it’s undoubtedly David, but none of his friends can grasp how and why that is. David digs around in his father’s garage of inventions and gadgets to find blueprints for the construction of a piece of equipment that can result in the manipulation of time. The gang spends a good twenty-five minutes buying supplies and constructing the gadget before they actually get it up and running, showing the real painstaking process and science behind the machine rather than just constructing it in montage. When they finally get it up and running, thanks to a car battery graciously loaned by Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia), David’s crush, the five agree to rely on group consensus in order to conduct time travel.

The first act of the film concerns the construction of such an unorthodox piece of equipment, while the second act shows all the fun and recklessness that can be embraced when one has the power to transcend time. It’s a lot of fun, especially a great scene showing Quinn try thrice to ace his impromptu chemistry report and Christina get back at the bullies who tormented her. The final act, however, shows the consequences of their actions and the inception of a nasty ripple effect that no one intended to cause but no one can figure out how to remedy.

Director Dean Israelite and writers Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman never get too hung up on one particular idea, daring to show everything they can and logically portraying the effects that such bold manipulation of time can have on people. The film features some very solid special effects for being a relatively low-budget film, especially during scenes when the gang are just trying to get the machine off the ground, resulting in the uncontrollable movement of everything around them.

Project Almanac‘s only real issue at hand is the fact that it gets to be manic in story-structure and videography, especially towards the end, when Pagan and Deutschman get so wrapped up in the ideas and the fast-paced action of the story that they lose sight of coherency and, in turn, create a final act that’s messy despite being revealing. Even if the film, however, becomes a manic exercise towards the end, the true power and likability of the film lies in the fact that it analyzes the concept of time travel from all fronts and features pragmatic motivations by its characters when things really begin to heat up. This is the most entertaining film currently playing at the local multiplex, and after a month of tardy Oscar nominations and a hodge-podge of mediocre to average films, we needed some good entertainment like this, regardless of how schlocky it can be.