dir. Nima Nourizadeh
Release Date: Mar 02, 12
Project X is big and dumb and loud. That being said, as far as big and dumb and loud goes, it’s fairly entertaining. The latest in the current trend of found footage movies, Project X occasionally plays more like a music video than a movie. Surprising as it may be, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This movie knows what it is, and while it’s not a masterpiece, it is at times quite a bit of fun.
The story revolves around three high schoolers named Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). They’re all newcomers except for Mann, who has a few credits including 2010’s polarizing It’s Kind of a Funny Story. In an attempt to give him a birthday that neither he nor anyone else will ever forget, Costa decides to throw Thomas the biggest party the world has ever seen. That’s a bold characterization, but considering the heights that said party eventually reaches, it’s not necessarily far from the truth. The events are clearly based in a loose sense on that Australian kid from a few years ago who threw a giant rager and later went on television to not apologize for it. There’s even a scene in the credits parodying the now-infamous viral video.
The best parts of Project X come from the stylized hedonism of the party. An excellent soundtrack combined with endless shots of “teenagers” raging their asses off doesn’t exactly make for high art, but this film isn’t trying to be Oscar bait. In today’s hyper-sensory society, movies often play like music videos, but fortunately, an amusing screenplay from the relatively unknown Matt Drake and the slightly more accredited Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the upcoming 21 Jump Street) break up the visual smorgasbord nicely. Most of the characters aren’t breaking the mold here; Thomas is the good-hearted, shy kid, and Costa and JB are different halves of Jonah Hill’s role in Superbad. The three leads have good chemistry together, and the dialogue is often witty and amusing. The movie takes a somewhat alarming turn toward the end, where the party gets out of control and becomes a massive, unstoppable force of destruction. While the repercussions aren’t nearly as severe as they would be in real life, Project X does a fairly good job of showing the dark side that’s just around the corner, waiting to creep in with all the excessive fun you’re having.
But to say the movie is enjoyable doesn’t give it the right to avoid scrutiny. The biggest flaw in Project X is the found footage format. While this style is certainly starting to seem tired and overused, the worst problem is when it’s employed just for the sake of a gimmick, and not to tell the actual story. Project X would’ve worked fine had it just combined gritty hand-held shots with the overblown party sequences; we would’ve believed it, because it’s a movie. In employing its chosen format, you automatically encourage people to say, “Well how come it looks that way if this is all supposed to be found footage.” The motivation for the party also isn’t quite strong enough. The tagline for Project X reads, “The Party You’ve Only Dreamed Of.” Great, that’s perfect, I’d love to see a movie about that, but then why did this party just happen so easily? If the point is to show us the wildest, most excessive cinematic party of all time, I can get behind that, but what I have trouble believing is that these three archetypal losers made it happen by just snapping their fingers.
Project X was helmed by first-time director Nima Nourizadeh, primarily known for doing (you guessed it) music videos up till this point. Although it’s disturbing to think of movie audiences being too eager for this type of substance-free visual candy, it’s a fun treat every once in awhile. Much like candy, Project X doesn’t make for a good meal, but it’s a tasty distraction to enjoy between more substantial fare.