In Hollywood’s seemingly endless quest to use the found-footage gimmick to resuscitate any subgenre, we have the new time-travel movie “Project Almanac.”
The film self-consciously name-drops “Looper,” although it probably has more in common with the comparatively no-frills “Back to the Future.”
Desperate for ideas for a scholarship proposal, incoming Massachusetts Institute of Technology freshman David (Jonny Weston) rummages through his late scientist father’s personal effects in the attic. He uncovers an old home video of his seventh birthday party and catches a glimpse of his present-day self in the footage. That leads him to the garage, where he finds an instructional manual for building a time-machine prototype.
David makes a pact with his sister, Christina (Virginia Gardner), best pals Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), and love interest Jesse (Sofia Black-D’Elia) to travel together in time. For once, characters actually attempt what any of us would do with a time machine: They travel to buy a Powerball ticket with winning numbers they know in advance.
It’s mildly amusing when Quinn repeatedly attempts a quiz à la “Groundhog Day” until he aces it, but it’s downright corny when the kids time-travel frivolously to attend Lollapalooza with VIP badges scored on EBay.
With “Looper” and the fantastic recent release “Predestination” using the same plot device to explore existentialism, the potboiler “Project Almanac” feels like a leap backward.