‘Project X’: This teen party movie’s a big dud

(L-r) JONATH­AN DANIEL BROWN as JB, OLIV­ER COOPER as Costa, and THOMAS MANN as Thomas in Warner Bros. Pic­tures’ com­edy “PRO­JECT X,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease.


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: D


You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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