[Review] – Project X

20 Mar

Title: Project X
Year: 2012
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writers: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall, based on a story by Mr. Bacall
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Alexis Knapp, Dax Flame
MPAA Rating: R, crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens
Runtime: 88 min
IMDb Rating: 6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Metacritic: 48

Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover, is pretty much the only recognizable name attached to Project X, and he’s not even directing, just lending his talents as a producer. Other than that, we have Nima Nourizadeh directing, and it’s his debut film; both writers, Michael Bacall and Matt Drake have written just a handful of titles each (though Mr. Bacall did co-write Scott Pilgrim vs. the World); and the cast is made up of actors found throughout a nationwide casting call and consists of actors with either none or very, very little acting experience. Add that to the fact that film has such a mysterious title (originally just a placeholder for a final title but adopted as the official one after it started generating hype), and I actually really wanted to see what this whole teen-partying film was all about.

The result, however, didn’t warrant that level of interest, hype or expectation. This film marries the found-footage film technique with the many teen-movie ways, but it doesn’t do anything new with them, and Project X ends up being just a really predictable sort of affair that’s not only not original whatsoever, but that’s also not that funny. I mean, it’s not a horrible film by any means, not even one of the five worst I’ve seen all year, it’s just that it’s nothing we haven’t seen done before. That, and I also kind of got the feel that the party scenes weren’t in the vein of American Pie or those films, but it just seemed all a bit mean to me; an opinion only reinforced by the fact that the film has already inspired many parties imitating that of the film, which has so far resulted in the death of one teenager after another opened fire when the police came in to break the massive party, and just yesterday four people were injured under similar circumstances.

I just don’t know what this film was trying to be; and I don’t know what Todd Phillips planned with it. It presents a view of teenagers that makes them look pretty damn idiotic, a film that feels like a cheap Superbad knock-off and that, even at a slim eighty-eight minutes, gets to the point in which it feels as though it’s just repeating itself. This really feels as though you got Superbad, though with way worse script, and erased all of the charisma that Jonah Hill and Michael Cera brought to that film. I mean you certainly have Oliver Cooper and Thomas Mann trying to play those roles, those of Costa and Thomas, the fat obnoxious best friend and the skinny dorky guy, but they don’t even have the hint of the talents needed to make something out of their material, and the material isn’t very good to begin with.

The film is found footage recount of events at a Pasadena blow out thrown by teens looking to get laid that descends into a drug-and-alcohol-fueled destruction zone that quickly spirals way out of anyone’s control. To make it seem more like actual found footage most of the characters are named after the actors playing them, and the fact that you haven’t seen them in any other movie before this one enables you to believe they really are just kids having a party. But then there’s the fact that I just didn’t believe the found footage stunt here. I mean in most of these movies there are a few instances in which there’s a gap in the logic to how a character got a camera there or why didn’t they just leave it and run, but the guy filming the party in this movie is a character that has nothing to do with the story, doesn’t drink at all, and is just there to film the stuff around him. Might as well have shot this regularly and not call it a found-footage flick.

Director Nima Nourizadeh got his start in commercials and music videos; and it shows here. This whole film is by far at its most comfortable when it behaves as such, when it’s just all about the raging party and the madness and just observing that, it’s like a really long music video (incidentally this film has many great songs in it), but as a film, you just don’t feel a filmmakers voice in here at all. And the party scenes are fun and all, but you just don’t get a point to them whatsoever, we haven’t gotten to know and connect our characters well enough for us to actually understand what this party will mean for them. We just have characters we don’t really know doing stuff we’ve seen done way too many times before, and we don’t really care how it all ends for them.

But end it does, and like with most found-footage films it’s a pretty abrupt end for us to not really know what happened to these guys. Only that after the camera cuts to black we do get some end titles explaining just what happened, though it’s more likely that that’s not done to get closure, but rather to set us up for the sequel the studio has already started planning for. Project X is a film that really does commit to its acts of debauchery and many times they do seem fun, but the fun quickly wears off and you’ll realize this is a film doing stuff we’ve seen done before and in much better ways, and that, for all the energy is so clearly has, it’s certainly lacking in the humor department.

Grade: C

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