How can I review a movie like Project X? I don’t mean it in an “oh God, it was horrible” way because it wasn’t horrible. But it’s a movie that hits all the jokes that you figure you would hear in a pseudo-documentary about three teenagers throwing an out-of-control house party. It also doesn’t help that approximately half an hour — roughly a third of its 88 minute runtime — is made up of music video-style montages of young people dancing, drinking, smoking pot, hooking up, and jumping in a pool topless. After all, there’s no real storyline to a high school house party — just one moment of craziness to a moment of drunken stupidity to another moment of something awesome with enough time in between to crush a beer — so the montages are more-or-less necessary to moving the story along. There’s definitely some laughs here, but by the third montage you are well aware that this is padding for what would be an otherwise short movie.
And that’s essentially the main problem with Project X — producer Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover movies) has taken the now-classic party scene from his earlier movie, Old School, mixed in the “dweebs who want to be popular via epic partying” plot from Superbad, and hired music video director Nima Nourizadeh to direct a bunch of kids in party scenes. There’s nothing wrong with that as it is, but asking people to cough up $9 to see it play out takes some gall.
Movies like this either need to play it realistic — as this movie does for the first forty minutes or so — or completely over the top, like Old School, and just have Snoop Dogg show up. Project X unfortunately aims for the awkward middle, trying to maintain a sense of realism — especially with it’s documentary style (most of the movie is “filmed” by Dax, a mostly silent A/V student) — but trying to be a balls-out comedy, with the last half hour of the movie being very over-the-top after the believable opening. After all, the concept of this movie — three friends record their high school party, with which they hope to gain massive popularity and hot chicks — happens every weekend in most suburbs.
As far as the quality of the movie, it’s a toss up. If the shaky-cam style of Cloverfield pissed you off, you won’t be happy, and the movie’s dialogue mostly consists of jokes and lines about how epic the party is with plenty of “fucks” “shits” and “bitches” thrown in. The actors are mostly unknowns (they auditioned for the roles via the internet), so I suppose I should cut them some slack. It’s hard to comment on their acting since they’re playing teenagers — almost all of whom share the same names of the characters they play, I guess to make it more natural on set.
Of course, if you’re looking for a message in this movie you’ll end up laughing quite a bit. Sure, the trio of friends become popular, but not because of, well, who they are as people — because they threw a big party and essentially ruin Thomas’ parents’ lives. The classic John Hughes lesson of trying to be someone else ultimately reveals you as a phony doesn’t seem to be in play here. But that’s a small sacrifice to make for high school popularity, right? It’s not like everyone will end up forgetting about the party by the end of third period on Monday… and obviously Thomas has a super-hot friend (Kirby Bliss Blanton as Kirby, naturally) all along who thought he was a great guy the whole time, so he never really had to throw this kind of party to begin with, but… well, you can guess how that storyline goes.
Sure, Project X will make money because of 17 year olds thinking it’s as banging (or whatever the heck teenagers say, I’m too old to care) as the latest episode of Jersey Shore and its low budget (apparently $12 million, though I find hard to believe it cost this much). This will unfortunately send a message to studios that more movies should be made like this. But this movie would have easily gone direct-to-DVD if it was named American Pie Presents: Project X, and that really should tell you all you need to know about how this movie is.
Rating: If you really want to see it, wait until it’s on RedBox (4/10)