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Project X

Theatrical Review

Warner Bros. Pictures; 88 minutes

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Written by on March 2, 2012 

I guess I just don’t get it. Being the kid that would rather pick up an extra shift at my hourly job than attend an epic rager the likes no one has ever seen means the insanity that ensues in Project X only cements the fact I made the decision staying away. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh and the brainchild of Michael Bacall, Matt Drake and producer Todd Phillips, the idea that what we’re seeing is real has been squashed way before you sit down to experience the carnage. Rather than believe the title is some covert codename for a guerilla shoot, it’s quickly discovered to be one more jokey quip on behalf of Costa (Oliver Cooper) as he readies to put best friend Thomas’ (Thomas Mann) parent’s house on the line in order to ‘change the game’.

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Shot as though documented by loner Dax (Dax Flame)—recruited because he apparently had nothing better to do since none of the main trio rounded out by Jonathan Daniel Brown‘s JB are friends with him—we become thrust into Thomas’ seventeenth party. Costa gets the word out via mass text, Craigslist, and whatever means he can despite pleas to make it no more than fifty people as the birthday boy’s folks celebrate their anniversary out of town. Fifteen hundred partiers ranging from freshman crashers to middle-aged men looking for fun later and an entire residential block of quaint picket fences goes up in flames. A seemingly never-ending series of television footage capturing the destruction and ‘Where are they now?’ captions afterwards tries to maintain faux verisimilitude, but a flamethrower and kids getting hit by cars make it hard to stick.

I probably shouldn’t dismiss the craziness like burning trees, twelve year olds stun-gunning concerned neighbors, or dogs flying through the air suspended by foil balloons since the events transpiring supposedly were inspired by real life parties the filmmakers attended and rumored debauchery they heard through the grapevine. Midgets get shoved in the oven (poor Martin Klebba), garden gnomes become baseballs, and two handwritten signs saying ‘naked girls only’ at the side of the pool actually work to get almost every supposed high schooler to take their tops off. As Jimmy Kimmel jokes, “It’s the most teenage nudity I’ve seen since an R. Kelly party”, the film lives up to its R-rating with a litany of montaged sexuality bumping to the beats of Eminem, Kid Cudi, and the xx.

A cautionary tale for parents and the authorities to never underestimating how stupid your honor roll student can be when given carte blanche, Project X attempts to up the ante as each second ticks away. Three invisible wallflowers that a poll of students by Dax shows to be completely anonymous soon become the coolest kids in Pasadena as the no-holds-barred soiree becomes a Bacchanal of sex, drugs, and more of both. A who’s who list of faux graduates from their high school—including a Playboy playmate and top ranked college baseball player (Miles Teller)—all the angst-filled romantic drama trying to be relevant as Thomas realizes BFF Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton) is the girl he desires gets thrown out the window for whatever stupid thought Bacall and company’s depraved minds could conjure up. Culled together from camera phones, handhelds, and security footage, nothing is missed.

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But what truly is the point? The audience composed of mostly college kids lapped up every second with huge guffaws either from recalling a similar situation they experienced or something they can’t wait for Friday to do themselves. Maybe I’ve gotten old or perhaps I’ve always been—I simply don’t find the appeal. Yes, Mann, Cooper, and Brown are endearing when wasted and of sound mind, but is that enough to excuse the fact there is no story besides destruction? A wet dream for every hormonal adolescent wishing they could throw a party hot girls attend and therefore feel obligated to screw the host, the film is more fantasy checklist than deterrent. Questions like, “How crazy can my next party be?” are more likely to cross the minds of impressionable youths watching than, “Wow, I better try not to ruin my future by falling prey to fun and glory”.

Little moments like the subtle reactions of a supermarket cashier or the in your face filming of T-Rick (Rick Shapiro) going T-1000 on the boys’ minivan do hit big. Pete Gardner has a couple instances of gold as an older man trying to prove he’s one of the guys and not a narc and Rob Evors engages in some great verbal spars with Cooper’s Costa as the man trying to shut the party down. Then there is Alexis Knapp‘s body, fireworks flying indoors, alcohol dispensers funneling from a tree, rooftop skateboarding, and a stoned dog to round out the evening. The highlight above all else, however, has to be middle school security guards Everett (Brady Hender) and Tyler (Nick Nervies). These two are a riot—way too intense for their age and running loose with a false sense of power and justice.

I might have left the theatre in semi good spirits if the filmmakers didn’t think they needed to flesh out a real film with character growth. Allowing Thomas’ father (Peter Mackenzie) to say what he does and letting Kirby relinquish all self-respect at the end while fake news reports litter the screen in full rather than playing alongside the credits only subverts the illusion and shows its strings. I didn’t come to see Project X because I wanted to watch how love blooms and adults forgive. I came to watch a block of houses get torn apart while the three leads barely escape with their lives to become legends. And while it does exist in the moment at times, the misguided need to wrap everything up only shows how sloppy and asinine it all really is.

Project X is now in wide release.


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