Project Almanac has absolutely no grounding whatsoever in reality. Obviously a science fiction story about teenagers who acquire the ability to time travel isn’t going to be 100% logical, but the sheer volume of disbelief this movie requires you to suspend is absurd. It asks you to believe that a group of teenagers could, with only some highly classified and mind-bogglingly complicated plans they found in a basement, assemble not only a working time machine, but a fusion reactor to power it with parts they get at a Home Depot. Because high level quantum mechanics is really just like Lego when you think about it. Of course an Xbox 360 has the parts they need to construct an interface for their new time machine. Of course he can, within a day, design a control interface app for the contraption on his phone.”
It also expects you to believe that those same self-obsessed teenagers immediately recognise the ripple effect of their temporal wanderings when a spate of random disasters occur around the world, and that they are not only able to attribute those disasters to their time travel, but within seconds are able to ascertain exactly what it was they changed that caused these catastrophes to occur. At a certain point, suspension of disbelief starts to detract from a movie’s watchability. Unfortunately for Project Almanac, it hits that point about 20 minutes in.
OK, it’s a time travel movie about teenagers, so let’s give them a break. This isn’t supposed to be about authentic scientific discovery or complex cascading causality. It’s about juvenile wish fulfilment, so does it deliver on that? Nope.
The uses they come up with for their time machine are so mundane that you’ll probably spend most of the runtime imagining just how much better you could have done given their opportunity. On top of that, the absolute disdain these kids have for the enormity of their discovery is depressing. Yes, ironic detachment is the hallmark of our generation, but a little wonder or some genuine scientific veneration would go a long way towards selling this premise. Even disaffected kids would be a little stirred by the discovery of time travel, right?
The main crux of the piece, like all teen movies, is a love story between unrealistically gorgeous science geek David (Jonny Weston) and uncharacteristically open-minded popular girl Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia). David has crushed on Jessie since, like, forever, and his inventing time travel really warms her to him. But then he makes a stupid, selfish, time travel-based decision in order to acquire her, and that’s where the movie tries its hand at some proper paradox-heavy storytelling. Unfortunately the rules of time travel in this movie are already so convoluted by that point that there’s just no internal consistency against which the audience can measure the increasingly baffling plot twists. Also, this is a found footage movie, so anyone hoping for a least some exciting temporal special effects is going to be disappointed. Their time jumps are mostly accompanied by camera static and lots of Star Trek-style sparking.
It’s just not a great movie. The story is a mess, the characters are poorly drawn and eminently unlikeable, and the time travel is messy at best, and dull at worst. The actors, particularly Jonny Weston, do their absolute best to infuse the mostly-contrived dialogue with life, but ultimately Project Almanac is two hours of your life you’re going to want back. And, unlike these kids, you can’t get them.