It’s been a while since there has been a movie filled with teenage drunken, drug-induced debauchery. Since Superbad came out a few years ago, it has been held up as the new standard for high-school party movies. Superbad is so last decade though, so Project X attempts to be the new party movie of this decade — and falls flat on its face.
The people at the party may be having fun; folks in the audience will be checking their watch.
Project X has a cast of characters similar to those in Superbad, as well as a bunch of outrageousness that one would expect when the name Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover, is attached to a movie (he’s a producer here). The movie is actually directed by newcomer Nima Nourizadeh.
Thomas (Thomas Mann) is the Michael Cera-type cute dork turning 17, and his buddies Costa, the Jonah Hill-type, snarky bad-influence friend (Oliver Cooper), and J.B., the ripe-for-fat-joke-fodder friend (Jonathan Daniel Brown), are planning to throw a huge birthday bash at Thomas’ house. His parents are conveniently out of town for a weekend and think he’s too much of a loser to do anything bad while they’re gone.
Costa hires the creepy AV-student Dax (Dax Flame) to record the events, giving the movie the found-footage element. Found footage already feels old, tired and annoying in horror flicks; now filmmakers have branched out to use the technique in a teen party flick. Hopefully, it’s a trend that dies real soon.
With its cast of unfamiliar faces, Project X is another of those “let’s cast a bunch of unknowns so the audience will think it’s real” movies. None of the boys are particularly likable beyond their generic caricatures. In fact, one of the boys is downright appalling.
The Costa character is a real tool, for lack of a better description. I don’t know what was worse, his misogynic comments about women, his not caring about Thomas’ insistence on keeping the party small, or the repeated telling of mean-spirited fat jokes to the overweight J.B. I thought if this is how he talks to his friends, I’d hate to see how he treats his enemies.
Speaking of misogyny, there were so many topless women that I thought I was watching a Girls Gone Wild video (apparently signs near the swimming pool that say “Naked Girls Only” actually work).
There is one particularly crafty scene where all 1,500 guests hush up and hunker down when the police arrive for a noise complaint. After that potential disaster is averted, the party continues to get even wilder until the wee hours of the morning — well, actually until the psycho arrives with a blowtorch. A midget gets thrown in the oven; the dog gets high as a kite (both literally and figuratively); and there are other lame things not even worth mentioning. The sappy romance at the end is completely unbelievable.
Overall, there are not a lot of laughs and no funny quotes to keep Project X in your memory. And where were the consequences of this wild party? Thomas’ family is basically bankrupt after his wild night, and dad just gives Thomas an encouraging pat on the back and says, “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
The same can be said for audiences that sit through this film. For kids, the lesson to be learned from Project X is that if you throw a wild party and burn the house down — literally — you’ll be a legend at school on Monday. ••
Movie Grade: DEndFragment