A movie review of “Project Almanac”: Despite its low-budget limitations, this time-travel adventure is more enjoyable than it has any right to be, thanks to a clever script and appealing performances. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Hey, kids! Let’s build a time machine! In the basement!
And they do. Kids. In “Project Almanac.”
With simple hand tools. (Hand me that screwdriver. Careful with that soldering iron.) And they make the gizmo compact. Fits in a backpack.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Project Almanac,’ with Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D’Elia, Virginia Gardner, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista. Directed by Dean Israelite, from a screenplay by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual content. Several theaters.
Not as silly as it sounds.
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Step back a step from “Almanac,” and the whole thing seems beyond absurd. But while it’s playing, you can kind of buy what it’s selling.
There’s a disarming modesty about it. Certainly its budget was modest. The combined salaries of its no-name cast probably cost producer Michael Bay less than the special-effects budget. And the special effects, while effective, are no great shakes.
Scratch that. Fact is, “shakes” play a big role in those effects. This is a found-footage feature. These kids — high-school seniors — record everything digitally. And I do mean everything. Toward the end, even when the cops are chasing the panic-stricken hero, he never stops filming the pursuit from his minicam. The unceasing flood of jittery handheld images makes your inner ear feel like it’s slipping and sliding on black ice.
But the characters, an MIT-eligible science geek (Jonny Weston), his geek best buddies (Sam Lerner and Allen Evangelista), his slightly less geeky sister (Virginia Gardner) and the beautiful girl of his dreams (Sofia Black-D’Elia) are all bright and personable. And the time-traveling goals of these kids are as believably modest: ace a test, soda-bomb a bully, score backstage passes to a rock concert, win the girl of the socially awkward hero’s dreams.
The dialogue is often clever. The kids name-check other time-travel movies, especially “Looper,” and one wants to venture really far into the past, you know: “Dinosaurs. Or at least Woodstock.”
The picture unravels toward the end as their time tampering comes back to bite them in scenes that feel hurriedly written and cheaply staged. But despite its limitations, “Project Almanac” is more enjoyable than it has any right to be.