Project X is a film for the modern age. It’s basically one long YouTube video of the greatest high school party ever and is perhaps the first “found footage” film that is an outright comedy. What sounds like it could be, at the very least, an amusing premise ends up being a complete mess.
Produced by The Hangover‘s Todd Philips, the film is “edited” together from amateur footage of Thomas’s (Thomas Mann) 17th birthday party. Thomas is such a loser, that even his parents are heard deeming their son as such. But his friend Costa (Oliver Cooper), who’s a blatant mishmash of Jonah Hill in Superbad and Josh Gad, goads him into throwing a huge bash that spirals out of control. The third friend of the group, JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), is slightly nerdier, and portlier, than his friends to become the brunt of numerous fat jokes throughout the film.
Honestly, there’s not much more to the film than that. What could have been an interesting keyhole view into a party that goes so far that the entire neighborhood is burned down can’t decide if it truly wants to be a “found footage” film or one where characters develop relationships and learn morals. On the moral front, at least, the film seems to be saying that being popular is rightly the most important element of a high schooler’s life. Films shouldn’t have to hold themselves to delivering morals or life lessons, but this just reflects the present fascination of becoming famous for being underage and pregnant or for no real reason other than being famous.
Instead, the film can’t really decide if it’s a real “found footage” project or a handheld shot party movie with much less plot than Superbad or the 90’s oddity Can’t Hardly Wait. Whereas those films celebrated high school culture, in all its debaucherous glory, they included character’s who were real people or at least represented a cliched slice of high schoolers, as in the case of Can’t Hardly Wait. While Jonah Hill’s Seth was offensive and insulting, it was due to his insecurities which he later realizes. But Costa is just flat out offensive throwing around derogatory terms for the sake of it, just for a laugh. He doesn’t learn anything except that he has the ability to throw the world’s greatest party.
What semblance of a plot there is revolves around Thomas is who is constantly worried about his house being trashed and his parents finding out, as well as some minor thread about being in love with longtime friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). This subplot is so poorly written and attached like a post-it note to the film that it actually takes away from the rest of it. Not only is Kirby “one of the gang” of geeks, but somehow has the looks of a professional model, but this thread is so obviously introduced so the film can have a “sweet” ending it’s straight out of Film 101. Also many of the characters are named after their actors but it’s unclear if this to create some sort of reality (which doesn’t make sense due to film being populated by unknowns) or if it’s just out of laziness.
To say the film doesn’t have its moments would be unfair, though, because it does. While Costa is pretty much annoying to the core, he does have some moments of hilarity, mostly at the expense of JB. And the party is shot so realistically one wonders whether the actors were actually sober throughout the shoot. It does succeed in putting the greatest high school party on film, it’s just that one wonders so what? In it’s defense, it’s not trying to be Superbad which has defined characters, story arcs and resolution, but by throwing in the subplot with Kirby and a lead up to the party which is nearly a third of film, one has to wonder what the filmmaker’s end game really is. If it’s to just film a great party, bravo, but if it was to break new ground in how a comedy film can be shot, well, they’ve failed miserably.
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