Film producer Todd Phillips took on the college frat boy scene in Old School, and graduated to grown men who act like children in The Hangover franchise. So, it seemed about time for him to tackle new comedic territory and regress to the high school years that everyone remembers so fondly. And so he has, with his new king-size comedy that doesn’t play by any film conventions: Project X. Under the direction of Nima Nourizadeh, the movie is shot using the found-footage style popularized by horror movies like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project, but used in an entirely new way.
Set in Pasadena, Calif., the film follows three stereotypical high school losers. Thomas Kub is the birthday boy whose parents are conveniently leaving town for the weekend, Costa is his obnoxious friend who doesn’t let anyone forget how much greater his life was back in New York City, and JB, although less important to the plot, rounds out their trio, serving as the butt of all the fat jokes. Determined to elevate their social status during their senior year, Costa persuades a reluctant Thomas to throw a huge party at his empty house. Huge is definitely an understatement.
Much to the surprise of the characters themselves, Costa’s inane strategies actually work, right down to the “Naked Girls Only” sign that he lodges next to the pool. The boys manage to round up 1,500 people, including some high school students and plenty of creepy middle-aged people looking for a good time. Boasting scrawny, yet terrifying, Taser-wielding 12-year-old security guards and a crazy guy with a flamethrower, their party makes Superbad look like afternoon tea at grandma’s house.
Even among the chaos, there are several scenes that manage to stand out. Early on, the three boys pilfer a garden gnome, only to be violently chased by its owner, much to the confusion of the moviegoers who are unsure of why the loss of this plastic decoration is so devastating. Don’t worry — you will find out soon. Another highlight is marked by the arrival of the cops in a futile effort to shut down the party. As a whole, the frequent montages of anarchic raging juxtaposed with the more staged scenes make for an interesting movie-watching experience.
Because almost every other word in the dialogue is an F-bomb, or that the party involves unpredictable stunts, such as a dog being tied to a bunch of balloons and a little person being stuffed into an oven, the film is bound to extract laughter from at least part of the audience. Yet, while the comedic situations are a strong point, the real weakness of Project X is its character development, or lack thereof. Thomas is likeable at times, but Costa is irritating from start to finish. As the two main female roles, girl-next-door Kirby and sexpot Alexis form a love triangle with Thomas in the middle, but the resolution to this dilemma is nothing if not predictable.
The party in Project X is undoubtedly epic when considering the sex, alcohol and general mayhem. But in terms of the movie itself, it’s rather one-dimensional. The rapport between Superbad‘s Evan and Seth is something to strive for and even the most legendary party can’t deny that, or compensate for Project X‘s absence of memorable characters.