“Project Almanac,” directed by Michael Bay, is a typical teen movie but with the science fiction element of time travel. However, this potentially-interesting element only worked to give the film a second set of predictable plot twists. The unsurprising turns and empty character relationships failed to be memorable despite its best efforts.
The film stars Jonny Weston as David, the endearingly techy and intelligent leader of a friend group. His cohorts are Jessie (Sofia Black-D’elia), Quinn (Sam Lerner), Adam (Allen Evangelista) and Christina (Virginia Gardner). After discovering his father’s old plans for a time machine and subsequently constructing one, David and his friends begin playing with time.
The project for which the film is named is the group’s documentation of their adventures, which is why the filming seems to be done by amateurs. While the camera shots succeeded in resembling a collection of videos taken on cell phones, it distracted from the story going on in front of them. This style of filming is overused, and it seemed like the director was more focused on emphasizing how the events were documented than on the actual plot line.
The story itself was engaging to a point, but it quickly became repetitive and predictable. The group of five high school students went back in time to achieve typical high school things. Taking revenge on a bully and retaking a test to get a better grade are hardly provocative accomplishments in my opinion. Also, the fact that there were repercussions in the present due to changes made in the past was not a surprising plot point; time travel mistakes are the foundation of almost all time travel stories. The plot holes of scientific nature that arose were covered by the lack of an actual scientific basis for anything, though. Additionally, catchy sound effects and visuals merely attempted to distract from the thin pseudo-science that supported the main story.
Because of the mainly-male, teenage cast, there was a definite and pervasive male gaze from which the story was told. It seems that their hormonal age is supposed to justify the objectification of women, both by the filmmakers and the characters themselves. The director likely intended to “remedy” this by tossing in witty jokes to make up for the continual images of barely-clothed and unrealistic bodies of women, but did not succeed. The protagonist’s love interest is, of course, a thin and beautiful friend he has had a crush on for an embarrassingly long time. And in case you fail to see it coming from their overt flirting, there are moments of shameless foreshadowing that will be sure to tip you off.
The acting sufficiently portrayed the teen angst that motivated most of the time traveling shenanigans. While no character was poorly acted, there were no incredible standouts. Simply put, this film is forgettable. I give this film 2 stars.