PROJECT X Review

     March 2, 2012

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Imagine the ultimate high school senior year house party from the male perspective and push it over the edge. That’s a rough description of the absurdity and chaos that breaks out in the latest handheld camera film called Project X. Following three seniors trying to throw a party that will get them noticed once and for all, they end up losing control and everything turns into absolute chaos as it expands. However, that’s after they have a whole hell of a lot of fun getting there. Unfortunately, like waking up with a hangover, the ending of this film almost ruins what happened before. Almost. Hit the jump for my full review.

Thomas (Thomas Mann) has been coasting through his high school years. He gets good grades but is otherwise uninteresting. His two best friends, JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and Costa (Oliver Cooper), are similarly unknown but for Thomas’ 17th birthday they hope to change all that by throwing the craziest house party while his parents are out celebrating their anniversary. Costa insists that the whole experience be filmed as well, so they enlist a loner named Dax (Dax Flame) that likes to film stuff. What could go wrong? Well, that’s before Costa, the real mastermind behind the party, uses all of his abilities to expand the fun well beyond Thomas’ limit of 50 people. From there, things just spiral out of control.

Director Nima Nourizadeh is working off of the script by Michael Bacall and Matt Drake with producer Todd Phillips adding his own sort of influence. You may recognize Phillips because he is the director of the Hangover films and similar debauchery takes places here. Let’s get back to that house party wet dream. A badass DJ is required. A pool, for sure. A hot tub on the side. A sprawling backyard. How about a bounce house? Now fill all of those areas to the brim with teenagers and various topless “high schoolers”—that’s clearly not their age—and good times ensue. Throw in a midget (an angry Martin Klebba) that gets shoved inside an oven, a multi-spout beer bong that flows from the top of a tree, and a dog that is given the Up experience by floating through the air by balloons.

As for the guests, Thomas has his eye on Alexis (Alexis Knapp), the “hottest girl in school”.. He’s shy and kind of innocent, but he’s out to do something big this year and Alexis stands as that dream goal. Knapp actually talked about how she tried to give Alexis a rounded character and make her relatable with a tomboy flair. As these things often go, though, that didn’t serve the purpose of the film’s goal and they likely ditched those lines in favor of adding more shots of topless girls in the bounce house. Or a midget punching people in the crotch. Did I mention him? There’s also BFF Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton) who is just one of the guys, until Thomas finds himself having feelings for her that have been simmering through the entire film. Talk about bad timing.

Throughout, the film is hilarious, with occasional great use of the documentary style footage as Costa’s loud claims about getting wild and crazy that night leads an older checkout lady to give a glance at the camera in an embarrassed way. There’s also a great villain kind of role as a nice neighbor (Rob Evors) with a newborn attempts to get the party to shut down for the night around 11PM. That doesn’t sit well with a wasted Costa who spouts off and the constant threat of the party getting busted up continues throughout the night with some humorous results. As a trio, JB, Thomas, and Costa are endearingly funny whether wasted or sober. Nourizadeh has a background in creating music videos, and the slow pan and scan moments of teenagers jumping around, dancing, drinking, and smoking play well to the various music of Eminem and other hiphop artists.

As the party surges and becomes more out of control, there has to be a climax and Project X gets that right. However, they attempt to wrap things up with a nice bow that simply doesn’t work. Instead of having harsh consequences everything seems to just be a shrug of the shoulder. Everything is done in a joking manner, but it feels half-hearted and uninspired. If they had just cut to black at a certain point, like most found-footage films, it would have left you to fill in the blanks about the results. Escapism at its finest? I find it more like not knowing how to balance a responsible ending without flying in the face of the zany proceedings. If it isn’t clear, Project X earns its hard R rating and crams in a lot within its diminutive 88 minute runtime. This is one film that has no qualms about being over the top and the slow build towards chaos is quite enjoyable. If you can stand the handheld camera aspect and are looking for a comedy out to simply make you laugh without any semblance of story, this may be the party for you. Project X is currently in theaters.

Score: B-

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