Movie Review: Project X
By Ryan Mazie
March 1, 2012
The term “shocked” is thrown around a little too lightly in today’s world of pop culture. With panty-less starlets running around Hollywood (anyone else excited to see Lindsay Lohan host Saturday Night Live this week?), songs about S&M on the radio (less than three months away before Rihanna stars in Battleship!), and movies that contain about just every dirty reference in the book (ie. any comedy rated R), there is not much left to be startled by. However, with teens gobbling up ecstasy off the ground, a dog having sex not once but twice, and a midget being thrown into a kitchen oven (this isn’t even 10% of it), Project X is one of those rare films that can still make your jaw drop.
Nothing original, Project X is taking the best bits of every teenage sex comedy and then cranking the volume up to 11. But with a well-to-do cast and a quick running time, Project X consistently hits the funny bone - with a dash of (un)intentional winces.
Sure to draw comparisons to Superbad (can you believe that came out in 2007?), instead of attempting to throw a party, the problem in Project X is how to keep the rager under control from the cops, the national news stations, and even a crazed drug-dealer armed with a flame thrower.
A cast of all unknowns, the most likely of the three teens to make it in the acting world is Thomas Mann. He plays the timid dweeb Thomas, whose birthday falls on the same day as his parent’s anniversary. With his parents leaving the house for the weekend, Thomas’s “friend” Costa (Oliver Cooper, who occasionally crosses the line into annoyance) texts, emails, Facebook messages, and tweets the entire high school about Thomas’ awesome 19th birthday. complete with enough drinks to fill a liquor store, a DJ, and a moon bounce.
But just like any party movie, the 50-person maximum quickly balloons from party-level to destruction-level with the end result of the Pasadena neighborhood looking like the aftermath of a Transformers movie.
The only star quotient brought to the project is via its producer Todd Phillips of The Hangover and Old School fame. Much like Hangover, Project X relies more on drunken debauchery than plot to keep the film chugging along. Scripted by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim) and directed by first-timer Nima Nourizadeh, it is easy to see Phillips' guiding fingerprints all over the film. Crammed with montages, editor Jeff Groth does a hell of a job splicing together multiple clips of drinking, dancing, flashing, smoking, and throwing up over one of the hippest soundtracks that thumps over the theater’s speakers (notably including remixes of Wale, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Kid Cudi).
While the script gets astoundingly crude, the vulgarity leads up to a joke, making it an exercise of balancing raunchiness and good taste.
All of the actors are competent enough not to be distracting, but I would be surprised to see any Emma Stone/Jonah Hill superstars spawned out of this cast.
Going with the “found footage” route of cinematography, Project X loyally sticks with the format, using no cheap tricks and setting up a halfway plausible plot device to justify the handheld decision. After this and Chronicle, it seems like filmmakers are finally finding ways to make this audience dividing style/gimmick rise out of the ghetto of lazy scare flicks and Paranormal Activity knock-offs.
The only major fault Project X has is that it is aimed squarely at my demo (late teens/college crowd). It is hard to see anyone that isn’t receiving a student discount at the theater buying a ticket for this movie. However, this ribald comedy isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it strikes bigger than expected this weekend.
Propelled by its escalating insanity, Project X is a satisfying 88-minute montage of partying that is as heavy on the laughs as it is on the drinking. A bit too reliant on stereotypes for its less than rich character development, the film never feels overly mean spirited. A dizzying spiral of mindless madness, the most disappointing thing in my head walking out of the theater was that I wasn’t an extra on the set.
7 out of 10