Project Almanac Parent Review
This is one of those plots where the outcome is so predictable that you sit and wait (hopefully with a big bag of popcorn) for the protagonist to fall into the hole he has unwittingly dug for himself.
Think of Project Almanac as a hybrid of Back to the Future and The Blair Witch Project. It is one of those plots where the outcome is so predictable you can only sit and wait (hopefully with a big bag of popcorn) for the protagonist to fall into the hole he has unwittingly dug for himself. But take your motion sickness pills if you are prone to a queasy stomach after watching an hour and a half of jerky handheld camera work.
Chris (Virginia Gardner) is the girl behind the camera. Her brother David (Jonny Weston) has been accepted into MIT but sans scholarship. She finds him rummaging through some of their deceased father’s old scientific papers and projects, looking for something to help him earn some much-needed funds for school. What he and his friends (Quinn Goldberr, Adam Le) eventually stumble upon are plans for a time machine.
Luckily for them, these high school students—the boys at least—are smart enough to figure out the diagrams, formulas and scientific jargon needed to build the project. Chris and David’s friend Jessica (Sofia Black-D’Elia) on the other hand repeatedly have to ask the boys to explain what they are doing in simplified language. The setup comes across as demeaning to girls and re-enforces the fallacies that pretty girls don’t come with brains.
Unfortunately, while these teenage boys have the smarts to build the time machine, they don’t have the sense to consider what the consequences may be for using it. To be fair, they are young. And even most responsible adults would likely be lured into the chance to go back in time and have a do-over in at least one situation.
Not surprisingly most of their time travel trips involve retaking tests or picking the winning numbers for a lottery. But David wants a chance to repair one mistake on his own. So he breaks the group’s cardinal rule and does a solo leap. That’s when the impact of the teens’ trips to the past begins to show up in ever increasing ripples. And every time David tries to go back and fix the results on his own, things only get worse.
Despite the fact that the characters build a time machine, this lightweight and predictable storyline, that contains plenty of references to other time travel movies like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Time Cop and Groundhog Day, isn’t rocket science. The script also contains excessive uses of scatological slang, a couple of strong sexual expletives and plenty of other profanities. And it’s no surprise that one teen boy wants to go back in time with hopes of scoring some sexual favors from a girl.
The film does attempt to depict some consequences for breaking the rule of jumping alone. And it reinforces the idea that our choices and actions can have an impact on others in ways we can’t always control. But both of those messages aren’t readily evident and need a fair amount of coaxing out to be noticed. However, the chance to spot these cautions is short. By the time the last scene plays, it is apparent that even the teens in this movie didn’t grasp the lessons. They’ve just decided there is another way to manipulate the past.Directed by Dean Israelite. Starring Sam Lerner, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Allen Evangelista, Patrick Johnson, Michelle DeFraites. Running time: 138 minutes. Theatrical release January 30, 2015. Updated May 18, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Project Almanac here.
Project Almanac Parents Guide
Previously known as: Welcome to Yesterday
Why are the teens hesitant when David suggests they go back and destroy the time machine? What things don’t they want to give up? Why does one character refer to what they are doing as “playing God?”
How does David justify his decision to jump alone? How does that affect the trust between the group members? What, if anything, would you go back and change if you could? What might be some of the possible repercussions?
What product placements do you see in this film? Are the items that are used aimed at a teenage audience? How might the intended movie audience affect what companies will want to include their products in a film?