Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review - Project X

Three high school seniors throw a birthday party in the hopes of becoming recognized at their school.  When the party surpasses their wildest imagination, the three teens are faced with the reality of a party that none of them can control or stop.

"Project X" is like a lifetime of good and bad party memories thrown into one gigantic pile. It is a teenager to twenty-something's wet dream of irresponsible partying. It is a dart board of ideas but the trouble is, as crazy as the party gets out of control, it never seems that outrageous or totally over the top. Sure, some insane stuff happens, like a little person jumping out of an oven or a guy with a flame-thrower burning down the North Pasadena neighborhood; yet the stakes are never palpable and the penalties are a big joke. I expected utter lunacy leading to maximum fallout but was left with something well underneath those expectations.

Part of this can be blamed on the fact that this found footage film tries too hard to be a teen movie instead of an all out irresponsible partying story. It tacks on a unnecessary romantic triangle that is as standard as the nose on all of our faces. The lead character and birthday boy Thomas (played by Thomas Mann), has a longtime girl friend, who is clearly into him. Our lead character's best friend Costa, the organizer of the party, has other ideas for Thomas and pushes him towards hooking up with one of the senior class's hottest girls. Each step of this basic story arc feels lopped on and takes away from the enjoyment of the party going on in the background. This becomes annoyingly inherent as party-comedy ties a tidy little bow on the ending. The film sells itself on being an epic party movie but underneath it really is just another teen acceptance story.

One dynamic that does work is the friendship between the three senior friends. Despite that the weak script has their only motivation for throwing the party being accepted by their classmates, the trio do a good job bringing funny to life. The boys have some solid chemistry between themselves and feel like a natural group of outsiders we all could have known in high school or college. Costa played by Oliver Cooper, is the mouth of the group and actually becomes a bit grating the more he is on screen. As one random documented high school kid points out early on as Costa is spreading the word, "You mean that dickhead in the sweater vest?" Costa is the catalyst of the group, constantly driving them and the party forward. Costa is a necessary evil that provides a few laughs, meanwhile Jonathan Daniel Brown gives the best performance of the trio as JB, a socially awkward heavyset friend of Costa and Thomas. While screen time with Costa would gradually frustrate, each moment with JB would offset the annoyance. I kept finding myself wanting more of JB and his hilarity. One of the best examples of JB's merriment is where he throws caution to the wind and jumps off the top of the roof into a jumping house. Again, more of JB and less of Costa's foul-mouthed rants could have only helped 'Project X'.

"Project X" does have its moments and they can be broken down into two categories; potential internet memes and music video montages. As for the hopeful internet memes, they are meant to be shocking and as the party spirals out of control there are certainly a few instances that left me with my mouth wide open in awe. That said, none of them are that incredible that I will still be talking about them in the future. The music video montages are exactly what you would expect. Stuff that is meant to do nothing more than arouse the male audience members. Pure chauvinism. A plethora of up-skirt camera angles, nude shots of teenage girls dancing, making out, or skinny dipping. Obscene amounts of drugs and alcohol being consumed, all of this set to loud music being DJ'd. Many of these moments will make the audience forget they are even watching a found footage movie because of all the editing that is involved. I should note that the videographer of the party is a gothic teen male who is only shown in brevity, but in the context of what he is filming, it is a stretch of the imagination that this weirdo could get away with the footage he has captured. Both the possible internet meme moments and music video montages share a similarity however, they are knee deep in the culture of partying. It is these moments that Project X should have spent more time developing than the overused romantic triangle.

As a parent I was interested to see how this movie would stack up to previous generations worth of thoughtless partying. Make no mistake, "Project X" isn't the first and definitely won't be the last to romanticize careless actions. My judgement, it is no better or no worse than the stockpile of teen comedies before it. Part of me takes issue that this film really leaves no judgement or negative impact for these individuals reckless actions, but neither did all of its predecessors. In a pre-credit sequence the audience gets results of the three friends actions and each one leaves the impression that these boys got nothing more than a slap on the wrist. I thought, thank goodness those entitled white kids from North Pasadena were able to get away with some serious charges. What message does this give the younger audiences that are sure to flock to this film? Will the kids even walk away with a message? Ultimately, this movie comes across like a dream. It is a fantasy. Sure kids may glorify the actions throughout the film but will they go out and play copycat, no. Well, they may try, but they will not succeed. This is after all a movie and the ending is a stark reminder of that. This is the kind of crap that can be watched and should be taken with a grain of salt. Ultimately, it is forgettable and meant to be nothing more that entertainment at face value.