After being delayed delayed half a year or so, PROJECT ALMANAC (aka WELCOME TO YESTERDAY and ALMANAC) has finally crept onto movie screens only to prove that waiting a year for its release would not have been nearly long enough. The trope of time travel and second chances has never been rendered in a more lethargic, less inspired fashion, and the idiom of found footage as the medium of transmission has never been more irksome.
It’s back to high-school, and a tense time for David (Jonny Weston), a good-looking kid genius whose just been accepted to M.I.T. Unfortunately, his widowed and unemployed mother can’t afford the tuition, and the scholarship options are thin. Enter the fortunately aspect of the story. David’s father was an electronics genius moonlighting as an employee of the local power company. In short order, David’s discovered a tape showing him at his own seventh birthday party, the secret trap door in the basement, and the secret of time travel. And because it’s that sort of film, he’s brought his fellow nerd pals, Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), his kid sister (Katie Garfield) who is never without her video camera, and the girl for whom he has secretly pined for lo these many years, Jessie (Sofie Black-D’Elia). It is she who gets to say the inevitable line “When are we?”
Kudos for all concerned in trying to inject a little hard science into the proceedings. Who doesn’t enjoy a cyclone in a soda glass, or hardware fused together by electromagnetism? Kudos, too, for nailing the adolescent brand of wish-fulfillment (fast cars, slow food trucks, and an all-day concert done on a bathroom break), but an instant recall for the faulty logic. Outsmarting a science teacher by studying, bullying the bully to put an end to the harassment, and ignoring the laws of physics when it comes to the mechanisms involved in recording the found footage.
Further feh for the interminable build-up to the first bout of temporal dislocation, and an even bigger further feh about the middle of the film turning into an extended advertisement for the ci-mentioned all-day concert event. And why is it that while David’s mom is willing to sell their house to insure his education, she’s not willing to check on what he’s up to, and very noisily, for days on end in the basement, much less bring him and his friends a tray of milk and cookies?
Not that these kids aren’t predictably adorable, in a wholesome, Archie and Jughead sort of way. Not that they don’t give their all to sell this tripe, evincing all the right emotions, from shy first kiss, to exuberant delight in those second chances, and panic when they lead to unexpected consequences, to the other inevitable element of a time-travel film with rule: the serious disappointment when one of them breaks them.
What we have here is a 45-minute story with no spark and no ingenuity stretched so thin that the atomic bonds themselves are feeling the strain. And, I would venture to guess, the tedium.