The makers of Project Almanac, a ponderous found-footage time-travel drama, tellingly waste 40 minutes cataloging banal uses for time travel before establishing their film’s generic main conflict: What if going back in time causes more harm than good? Painfully shy teenager David (Jonny Weston) discovers his dead father’s time machine but learns that he can’t improve the past without messing up the future after he uses it to make popular girl Jessie (Sofia Black-D’Elia) fall in love with him.
Until then, Project Almanac aimlessly follows David and his friends’ unimaginative power fantasies: The group cheats to win the lottery, and David’s sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) gets back at a bully by materializing out of nowhere to soak her tormentor with soda. Most of these scenes aren’t essential to the film’s plot, and none of them are much fun, especially since they’re all shot with hyper-shaky camerawork.
That ugly, unfocused photography makes it impossible to enjoy the film beyond its theoretical novelty. It’s interesting to think about buying expired VIP passes for a concert, and then going back in time to use them. But all we see of David and his friends traipsing around Lollapalooza is a palsied backstage recording of Vampire Weekend, followed by David and Jessie’s equally muddy-looking — and chemistry-less — post-concert tryst. Project Almanac could have been fun, but its creators don’t seem to know what fun looks like.