In Project Almanac, Sprite, Coke Zero, Red Bull, Xbox One and a Windows phone create a time machine.
OK, so it’s actually five teenagers, but all of those products get prime placement — pirouetting in plain sight during repetitive visual effects in one of the more unimaginative, predictable time-travel movies ever made. In fact, the long delay behind this film (originally scheduled for 2014 and extensively trailered under its original title, Welcome to Yesterday, before being bumped a year) seems timed to pimp more sales of three-day passes to Lollapalooza.
It’s there that the teens’ certain ill-advised choices factor into the genre’s usual chaotic complications. Creatively, Project Almanac otherwise a found-footage coat of paint on any number of shopworn ideas and calls it a day. Unlike Chronicle, which gave its first-person POV a reason to exist, Almanac frenetically futzes with the image to nauseating extremes. (Because it’s a Michael Bay production, it also casually pans over cleavage and long legs on the regular.)
There are a handful of amusing moments, like when the teens mistakenly miss an eight-figure lottery payout by one number. Or their ability to optimize their Lollapalooza schedule based on what they already know to be the “sickest” sets. Just don’t bother asking how they materialize in Chicago after jumping from Georgia. It’s one of many ways Project Almanac sets up an absurdly arbitrary set of time-travel rules; another is that bad things will only happen if one of them jumps back alone.
It’s easy to imagine the folks behind About Time, Looper, Timecrimes or Predestination (the latter a great, mind-shredding time-travel flick also released this month) chuckling over Project Almanac’s paradoxical simplicities and deflated drama. But hey, their time travelers never said “Whatever we did at Lollapalooza had some crazy ripple effects!”