The easiest way I can sum up Project X is to describe it as similar to The Hangover, except instead of three guys trying to remember what they did the night before, you actually get to see the debauchery as it unfolds.
The plot is pretty well worn: Parents go out of town and three high school kids decide to host a party in an attempt to vault them up the social ladder. Thomas, the birthday boy and host of the party, wants to keep things on the small side – a backyard party that will be just big enough for him to get noticed by his classmates, but that won’t get him into any trouble. His pal Costa has decidedly grander plans for the evening, but even he doesn’t anticipate the turnout. Chaos ensues.
The film is done in the “found footage” style —a gimmick that has been overused as of late, especially on the heels of Chronicle and the Paranormal Activity franchise. It would have been better for the filmmakers to use this method more sparingly in Project X – it is totally believable that the teens would be filming the insanity of the party on their cell phones and could have offered a realistic and different perspective. It begins to stretch the level of credibility that they are filming absolutely everything else, unless I’ve missed this trend of teenagers hiring their friends as cinematographers. By using it throughout the film, it loses its effectiveness.
The party is basically the plot, aside from an attempt to shoehorn in a fledgling romance. There isn’t much character development and there is never any doubt that the party is going to get out of hand. The focus in on the partying, giving the moviegoer the feeling of being a voyeur. Shots of teenagers drinking, dancing, doing drugs, hooking up and pretty much every female character going topless abound. People zip line into the pool from the roof of the house, make a platform dive onto a bouncy bounce house and stuff a little person in the oven.
Clearly this movie is not highbrow. It is unapologetically crude and completely gives in to baser impulses. It is 100% sophomoric. None of qualities are necessarily bad in my book – I have enjoyed plenty of movies that these terms could be applied to. But the major sin that Project X commits for me is that it is just not that funny. For a movie that is billed a comedy they seem to be aiming for more “OMG – can you believe they did that” moments than actual laughs. There are a few humorous moments – I got a kick out of the 12 year old security guards they hired for crowd control – but they were few and far between.
I’m well aware I’m not the target audience for this film. I found myself mentally calculating the repair costs of the damage rather than relishing in the wonton destruction. If you are a 15-22 year old male, you’ll probably eat this stuff up. The younger audience I watched this with seemed to enjoy it. But if all you want to do is watch teens behaving badly and shaky camera work, you can save yourself the money and just go to youtube (may I suggest you start here).
Project X opens nationwide on Friday March 2.