THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
If Project X was a person, I'd kick it in the balls as hard as I could. Then, after it managed to stop writhing in pain, I'd poke its eyes out with steak knives and bash it in the head with a rubber mallet until it was dead. I'm sorry if that doesn't sound very professional, but screw it – that's how I feel. This is a movie only in the sense that people will pay to see it projected onto a screen. On every other level (acting, writing, direction, cinematography, etc.), it is a complete and total failure. Worst of all, it flaunts its incompetence in the service of a horrible message for the teen audience it is aimed at. Don't mistake my outrage as a case of a film critic being an old fuddy-duddy; I've liked movies in this general genre before. No, Project X is a monumental act of stupidity and vapidness.
Shot in the increasingly annoying “found footage” format, the picture revolves around three stereotypical high school buddies. Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann) is the school geek who can't get a date. (He, of course, has a beautiful, popular female friend who treats him like a brother and is oblivious to his feelings for her.) Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the requisite horndog, who spends his days talking about his desire to have sex with large-breasted women. JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) is an overweight weirdo. When Thomas's parents leave him home alone for the weekend of his 17th birthday, Costa convinces him to throw a major party, figuring that if it gets wild enough, they will all get laid and be cool. A fourth member of the group, Dax (Dax Flame), videotapes the events for posterity. In an act of utter imbecility, Project X actually tries to sell us on the whole found footage thing via a pre-movie disclaimer designed to make it seem as though Warner Bros. Pictures bought some moron's camcorder footage and released it on 3,000+ screens.
Thomas's father figures his kid will have a small party, so he sets a few rules before leaving: no drinking, stay out of my office, and don't touch my car. Of course, all these rules are violated one by one. Costa makes sure to invite far more people than are necessary. As the evening wears on, the party gets increasingly out of control. Booze is guzzled, drugs are consumed, sex is had. Eventually, it evolves into a full-scale riot.
There have been good movies made about wild teen parties. Can't Hardly Wait comes to mind, as does Risky Business. The difference is that those films had stories worth following and characters you could identify with. Project X figures there's no need for such things so long as it keeps showing adolescents engaging in risk-taking behavior. Large chunks of the picture are taken up by music montages in which teens engage in mayhem: taking off their clothes, deep throating beer bottles, playing in a bouncy house, jumping in the pool, vomiting in the bushes, getting sexual, and so on. Occasionally, there's a break for Thomas to say, “Wow, my parents are going to kill me!” Then it's back to the montages. There is no plot whatsoever, just a dull series of party sequences, each more graphic than the last. Hopefully, it goes without saying that this becomes excruciatingly boring after about half an hour.
The character situation is no better. Thomas, Costa, and JB are each given only one trait, which the actors play repeatedly, ad nauseum. And they do it poorly. These don't feel like real high school kids; they feel like young actors being forced to recite raunchy dialogue that a couple juvenile screenwriters thought was edgy. The women in Project X fare even worse. They are here only to disrobe for the guys' pleasure and act like sluts. There's not a single positive female in the whole film. The one girl who is supposed to be grounded ends up completely selling out her values in the end. Yes, girls, there's no point in being strong or sensible when you can be some jackass's eye candy instead.
Most disturbing of all is the movie's message, which says that whatever you have to sacrifice in order to be cool is totally worth it. Intelligence, talent, and future potential count for nothing; dedicating yourself to hedonism and not caring about anything else counts for everything. And if you happen get laid in the process, you're golden. What a depressing, disheartening thought for any age group.
I didn't laugh once at Project X. Instead, I seethed for 88 minutes. I doubt there will be a more incompetently made film this year. (For my own sanity, I hope I'm right about that.) Shame on everyone involved with the making of this vile, detestable, pathetic, insipid, degrading, offensive piece of shit.
(zero stars out of four)
Project X is available on Blu-Ray combo pack and single disc DVD. The Blu-Ray has an extended cut that's about five minutes longer, and features a cameo from Simon Rex, playing a rapper. (No great loss, obviously.)
The rest of the bonus material is scant, running a collective total of just 14 minutes. “Project X: Declassified” is a fairly interesting behind-the-scenes feature showing some of the tricks the filmmakers used to make the out-of-control party feel realistic. Stunts and camerawork are discussed as part of this process. “The Pasadena Three” centers on casting the leads. One got the part through an online audition process. The actors were then put through some bonding exercises to develop a real friendship. Finally, there's “Project Expensive: Tallying Up the Damages,” a pointless segment in which dubiously purports to tell you the cost of various items damaged at the party.
Project X is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.
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