Project X

If not for the free Blu-ray Warner Brother’s provided me, I probably would have never seen this. It wasn’t well received by critics and only grossed $54.7 million in U.S. theaters. With that said, I must admit I enjoyed the little extra featurette included on the Blu-ray that tallies up the hypothetical damages caused by the out of control party. It’s rather creative and it made me laugh more than anything in the actual film.

Every two decades an era is given their very own Project X. 1968 saw the release of a sci-fi about biological-warfare directed by William Castle. The 80s were honored with the Matthew Broderick thriller about animal research with chimpanzees. Now the current generation is blessed with their own Project X movie. It’s the least enjoyable yet.

Project X is a pretty weak excuse for a plot. Young Thomas and his cohorts are planning a party for his 17th birthday. They’re outsiders and hope that their little shindig is attended by enough attractive girls and popular guys to make them more accepted. The celebration amongst the high schoolers starts out rather modestly, then spins wildly out of control. It aims to be outrageous for its strident politically incorrectness, but it just winds up being kind of pointless. Project X was originally marketed to showcase that Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover, produced this mess. Co-writer Michael Bacall was also responsible for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the 21 Jump Street screenplay, so there’s some talent behind the lens. But any expectations of quality are dashed as the chronicle unfolds to reveal a sloppily filmed record of debauchery and music. One, two, three music videos that highlight montages of wild party shenanigans with dance music, doesn’t disguise the issue that there’s no story.

It likewise doesn’t hide the fact that these actors portray a thoroughly unlikable lot. The producers decision to cast unknowns goes a long way in making it appear that the events of Project X really happened. That’s original, but our group of friends are the kind of generic nerds that you might find in any teen sex comedy. They’re the typical lazily written stereotypes that aspire to be part of the in-crowd. Of the three main protagonists that complete our trio, Costa is the most rude. A sweater vest wearing, gangsta talking suburbanite, he’s the instigator for the social gathering. Costa is supposed to be the boys’ buddy, but he’s such a jerk you cannot comprehend why they even bother to keep him round. To the very end, he continues to berate a neighbor who is upset about the noise. This is well after any normal person would be apologizing for the party that has deteriorated into anarchy by anyone’s definition.

Project X is exhibit A for any adult convinced the youth of today just wants to party hardy and nothing else. There’s nothing to redeem the continuous parade of bacchanalia and sleaze. You’ll be scratching your head when the father returns home and seems almost proud of his son’s party planning skills. The events are highlighted by such levels of excess and exaggeration, you could be entertained at the way this plays out. It’s not as pernicious as some might have you believe. I don’t think the attitudes on display here represent anything more shocking than those found in features like Animal House, Risky Business or Weird Science. Utilizing a cinéma vérité style to document anything other than horror these days is an innovation of sorts. There is an originality to the presentation and I’ll admit there’s a certain brainless excitement watching the small get together balloon catastrophically before our eyes. You don’t necessarily have to care for these characters. They’re so incredibly unpleasant the audience feels satisfaction when things descend into bedlam for them. It becomes a cautionary tale. The unbelievable way the narrative develops is the movie’s best asset.

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15 Responses to “Project X”

  1. This seems like a “Superbad” attempted copy gone wrong. From your great review, I will pass on this one. I am actually hoping to see Moonrise Kingdom soon. I know you loved that…

  2. Isn’t this “plot” the same in every sitcom where parents leave their teens home along for a weekend?

    • Yup. The “Parents are away so the kid’s throw a party that gets out of hand” scenario is just as common as the “Someone gets amnesia” plot or the “Very special episode” about drugs.

  3. This movie seems so dumb. Seems like just a weak excuse to put reckless behavior on the screen. Great review.

  4. Better than I thought. But still dumb.

  5. I cannot believe you gave this one star let alone two, it’s an absolutely detestible waste of 80-odd minutes. There’s no plot at all.
    If there were a way to be at a massive party while in a coma, this is what it would be like, it’s that BORING.

    Though it has resulted in one of the BEST one line review’s i’ve ever read:

    “It’s like The Goonies… if The Goonies were a bunch of c**ts!”.

  6. Solid points all around, your review and follow up. I had a different take on the film I covered for Warner Bros (hail Blu-ray Elite team member) – though must admit I’m not a big fan of most of the POV docu-style independent films. Mostly they try to hard and the dramamine-camera work is painful to the stomach. I know these elements are referenced in reviews about this film (apparently some have done it better and many worse) and the teen raunch-comedy also mentioned here and elsewhere is old hat. I see the rich tradition of a genre that you just can’t take too seriously and are better for just letting them be what they may – that means minimal plot, minimal story and character development and 100 percent moment-to-moment ridiculousness. I’m not a fan of the apple pie franchise or the teen-movies, mostly looking back on vastly more enjoyable films like Superbad, Supertroopers, etc. that didn’t try so hard and usually involved better scripts, actors, etc. Knowing the producers went after unknown actors is a good point as is the behind the scenes materials that really get at what they were going after. Whether or not they succeeded is up to you. I enjoyed it enough and would recommend it to anyone to experience it for what it is not all the vastness of its shortcomings. cheers-

    • Hail Blu-ray Elite team member! Ha ha. I’ll admit there is some enjoyment to be had. With that said, I’m glad I watched this at home. This is strictly a rental in my opinion. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Like we’ve discussed times before, the worst movies sometimes inspire the best writing, and this is a fine example. Excellent review, Mark! Suffice it to say, I will not be giving this a chance. After Hangover II, I’ve been avoiding anything involving Phillips like the plague.

    • So I take you won’t be seeing The Hangover Part III in 2013? Heh heh. I don’t blame you my friend. Did you know that Todd Phillips has an Academy Award nomination to brag about? Yes, it’s true, for co-writing the screenplay for Borat.

      • I didn’t know that actually. The man isn’t talent-less. After all, he’s responsible for the first Hangover, which I loved. But it’s all been downhill from there.

    • Agreed. First time was fresh. 2nd time was rotten.

  8. moviewriting Says:

    Oh my goodness I have never been so angry coming out of the cinema than I was after I saw Project X! It was shown here for about a week because it was so poorly received, but I’m glad that I endured it even though I power walked home ranting along the way. Sadly, a sequel is in the works. Looks like Phillips is planning to churn these out like the Hangover films! Great review, Mark.

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