Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Alexis Knapp, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Miles Teller, Dax Flame, Martin Klebba, Rick Shapiro, Rob Evors, Peter Mackenzie, Caitlin Dulany, Chet Hanks, Jimmy Kimmel, Jillian Barberie, Brady Hender, Nick Nervies.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Date: March 2, 2012
Home Video Release Date: June 19, 2012
Box Office: $54.7 Million
Green Hat Films, Silver Pictures, and Warner Bros. Pictures.
Written by: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall; Story by Michael Bacall.
|“I can’t fix this…I can’t fix ANY of this!!!” – Costa (Oliver Cooper).When I was in high school, I was not a partier per se, but I was friends with some who were and even in their wildest dreams, a party like the one featured in Project X would be so far out of the realm of possibility. The biggest partiers from my high school could never conceive of such debauchery, but only if Project X had been around for them. A pathetic call to action, steeped in Awesomeness and carrying with it the always troubling How To Be Cool In School theology, Project X is the latest entry in the exhausted and wheezing “found footage” genre and serves as a departure of sorts from most of those films which preceded it. Project X is a comedy, at least in theory, and with the exception of the rightfully ignored 2010 film The Virginity Hit, I cannot recall another comedy tackling their story in quite this manner.
From the outset of the film, Project X shoves an unsavory and loathsome kid named Costa (Oliver Cooper) down our throats and I cannot fathom anyone finding this character tolerable, likable, or endearing in any way, shape, or form. He is conniving, dishonest, and simply focused on all things sexual – except when he talks about throwing his best friend, Thomas (Thomas Mann), one incredible 17th birthday party, which will naturally lead to drinking, partying, and by the end of the night, Costa, Thomas, and a third friend, JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), all hopefully getting laid.
The caricatures are so transparent that you can see right through all of this. Costa has no filter and knows no boundaries, casting insults and vulgarities at anyone and everyone who even dares to take a look his way. Thomas is a pale, rail-thin worrier who is intrigued that his friend is planning his birthday bash while his parents are going away for the weekend. JB is an overweight, ridiculed, and awkward geek-like curiosity who looks like a young Josh Gad and is likewise easily swayed by Costa’s unrelenting attacks and insulting behavior.
Putting aside the belief that these three misfits could truly be the best of friends for a minute, Thomas’ parents apparently celebrate their wedding anniversary the same weekend of their son’s birthday, natch, and so, off they go, and Costa begins promoting a massive birthday bash to help Thomas be cool. And inviting just a few people becomes 20-30 people, which then becomes hundreds more when people spread around the invitation and Costa employs an unrelenting massive one day marketing campaign to get people to Thomas’ house.
On site, we have a professional-level DJ, massive quantities of alcohol, limitless recreational drugs available, and with a few signs instructing female nakedness, a wealth of high school girls (BUZZKILL – would these not be underage girls on screen then?) stripping off their clothes and jumping into the pool and likewise grind-dancing on guys. Go upstairs (of course they do…) and we find couples engaging in sex throughout Thomas’ house, and rampant chaos increasing and escalating by the second. Thomas panics, Costa assures him all will be fine, and the 2-man security force of 12-year-old boys are completely overmatched from the first moment to the last.
Project X is a headache-inducing mess which not only simulates a hangover effect on viewers, but also banks on the premise that teenagers and college students and immature man-children are going to love watching all this depravity play out on screen. And in all honesty, Project X provides a couple of laughable moments – from out of nowhere, a dwarf shows up, gets stuffed in an oven, and proceeds to go crazy once freed, punching countless party attendees in the crotch. A running joke involving a man in his 40s attending the party and playing beer pong and other party events is a sight gag that works, and just from the law of averages – some of the interactions between the lead characters land an occasional glancing blow of humor.
And yet throughout the film’s largely insufferable existence, there is little else to enjoy here and Project X goes so unfathomably over-the-top that even the most forgiving of viewers will have to throw up their hands and just check out. When things escalate into wanton destruction, news helicopters circling overhead, and a deranged drug addict with a flamethrower essentially wages war on the partygoers, Project X is so immersed in self-gratification that I wondered if I should just step out of the room and let it have its final moments to itself.
Produced by The Hangover director Todd Phillips, who notoriously faked a believable documentary known as Frat House prior to his directorial breakthrough, Old School, Project X might have benefitted from a mockumentary-style approach that incorporated the “found footage” within it. The lack of commitment to this approach is alarming since, at multiple times in the film, a second camera begins shooting footage from a distance or an angle that is logically impossible. To quibble over a major film flub in Project X is pointless and unnecessary because no one involved in this film is attempting to make any sense at all. The whole purpose of this film is to titillate and romanticize debauchery, preach some alarming misogyny, and in almost the film’s worst offense, empathize with Thomas as he realizes he might be in love with his best friend, Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton).
Of course, late in the night and after popping ecstasy, Thomas is caught by Kirby in the act with Alexis (Alexis Knapp), the hottest, most popular (sigh…), and apparently easiest girl in school. Kirby is heartbroken and Thomas chases after her once he has been discovered and Thomas is so high when he leaves Alexis to chase after her, that he has no earthly idea what is happening or why.
Ironically, I felt the same way for all 84 cringe-inducing minutes of Project X.