The Good: It ends faster with its running time under a full ninety minutes? You got me.
The Bad: No character development, Terrible acting, Nauseating direction, Pretty much everything.
The Basics: Thomas throws a party that goes horribly wrong, escalating into drunken mayhem that is anything but entertaining.
One of the things I think everyone should know about a movie reviewer whose reviews they read is their sense of standards and sense of range. So, for example, over the last winter, I stopped respecting anything that Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine (reviewed here!) wrote because every (I mean that literally!) movie preview I saw during prime time and late night television watching included a quote where Peter Travers was praising whatever film was being advertised. If you like everything, it is exceptionally hard to take your reviews seriously. Well, I don’t like everything, which is pretty well evidenced by checking out my Movie Review Index Page where the reviews are organized by the movie’s rating (on an objective scale of 0 – 10). Go ahead, check it out . Okay, now that you’re back, consider this: in addition to not liking everything, I don’t hate everything I see either. In other words, to get a film that hits rock bottom in my rating pantheon, you have to work pretty hard at it. As I write this, there are only sixteen movies I have seen and reviewed that rate an absolute zero. And I have reviewed over a thousand films. You have to work pretty hard to make a complete, soul-sucking, “I want to be lobotomized now,” “I would rather give myself minor surgery than watch another frame of this,” why did they put this out?! movie by my standards.
Project X makes number seventeen. Yes, it is that bad.
To be fair to Project X, one of the fundamental problems I had with the movie came from my utter unwillingness to buy the premise. No, I know there are out-of-control parties, I get that. Almost instantaneously the way Project X lost me was on the character front. I’m a big believer in the importance of character in film and Project X is utterly lacking in it. But the premise I thought has been done to death and is entirely ineffective in Project X is the whole idea that late in your high school career, you can turn things around for yourself in the “society” of high school. So, when Thomas’s friends talk him into the gigantic house party for his birthday on the belief that this will make them instantaneously popular, I just rolled my eyes. Sure, they might want to be popular; they probably should have thought of that about four years ago, though!
Project X goes downhill from there and that makes for a lemon of a film. In case you have not yet seen the endless previews – or gotten into one of the slew of free screenings that are going on around the United States – the plot to Project X is so simple as to be virtually nonexistent. For Thomas’s birthday, his parents are out of town, so his friends J.B. and Costa convince him to make his birthday party into an event the likes of which have not been seen before. What starts out as an intimate gathering of about one hundred classmates erupts into a massive, chaotic party filled with alcohol, drugs, lots of sex, and mayhem that results in the entire neighborhood being pretty much destroyed.
Project X has all the heart, character, sensibility, style and classiness of a full-length Girls Gone Wild feature. In fact, I was surprised that Todd Philips, who directed the clever The Hangover (reviewed here!), would want to be associated with something so painfully lowbrow as this. Project X is a party with fairly terrible dialogue thrown in and the shaky camera, booming music and strobe lights get very old very quick. Instead of being cool or hip, Project X quickly turns into something more akin to a nightmare.
An essentially plotless movie can work if the viewer has any way to empathize with the protagonists. Project X does not have that. Costa and J.B. are foul-mouthed and desperate and Thomas is a slack-jawed nonentity most of the time. They are the distilled stereotype of what youth are and they do not have anything distinctive enough to make them interesting. Project X characterizes young people as dimwitted, drug and sex-crazed pack animals and all other things being equal, who would really want to go to or watch a party with them?!
As for the acting, Project X is not going to win any awards for acting. Thomas Mann plays Thomas in the least interesting possible way, slouching through much of the movie presenting the lines with little real feeling behind them. He never truly convinced me he desperately wanted this party. Jonathan Daniel Brown and Oliver Cooper are faster on the lines, but do not make J.B. or Costa any more interesting.
In short, Project X is as vacuous as the previews made it seem, with terrible direction thrown in to make a plotless, characterless mess that does not even reach ninety minutes long. Small miracles.
For other films that focus on youth, please check out my reviews of:
Not Another Teen Movie
An American Crime
For other movie reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for organized results of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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