‘Project Almanac’ is MTV Films’ entry into the well-worn time machine subgenre, beating ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’ by a whole three weeks to our local Megaplex (no pun intended). Unlike police call boxes, hot tubs or DeLoreans, the time machine in PA is rather nondescript and bare bones functional, an incomplete DARPA (that’s “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency” to all you non-geeks) project left gathering cobwebs in the basement of a scientist who went missing on his son’s seventh birthday. Ten years later, the son (now a high school science prodigy) discovers, dusts off and tries to get the unfinished project working again. Such is the premise of this chaotic, ADD-infused, frustrating and utterly forgettable mess of a movie.
With its shaky hand-held camerawork, PA’s frequently shifting POV may induce nausea to those unused to the style. If anything, PA makes a strong case that this overused method should be put to rest once-and-for-all, 16 years after the movie which started this trend about another project, that of “Blair Witch.” Long story short, at various parts of the movie we see a group of five teenagers use the time machine to play pranks on their unknowing selves (so as not to violate the “time-travel paradox”), for "do overs" to pre-empt a teacher’s questions, and go to the Lollapalooza music festival which occurred three months prior before realizing that they created a ripple effect with their juvenile time-traveling shenanigans and tried to undo their mistakes or recreate missed romantic moments such as a simple kiss.
Unlike another shaky cam movie in the same mold, 2012’s ‘Chronicle’ starring Dane DeHaan, PA lacks the character development and good storytelling to pull it off. It’s just a disposable flick about a group of teens who decided to have some fun with their time machine, none of whom are remotely interesting enough for us to really care about.