There are many comparisons and homages to draw upon when considering a movie like Project X. The most direct is the biggest name rolling through the credits—that would be one Todd Phillips, the man responsible for The Hangover and Old School, and one of the producers on this piece of found-footage fratire. But to call it “Jackass meets Superbad!” would suggest that it blends the best offerings of Judd Apatow and Johnny Knoxville, when in reality it only shares the lowest common denominator—men following their basest instincts (sex, schadenfreude, and the frequent combination of the two) in the interest of comedy.
The three young men servicing their raging ids here are Thomas, Costa and J.B. If you don’t know them yet, you know their ilk—Thomas is the shy, reserved one, accepting of his status at the bottom of the high school food chain. Costa is the delusional driving force, unrelenting in his needs and ridiculous in his demands, all sweater vests and hip-hop swagger. J.B. is the Galifinakian sideshow, never saying much but popping up once in a while with a distraction or a thought that makes you wonder about his inclusion in the normal kids’ class. In trying to determine the hero amidst this trio of teenagers, we are told that it should be Thomas. After all, he’s the one with the crush on the smart girl who he’s known for years, and he keeps trying to rein in this party before he finally acquiesces to the insanity of the night. But really, he’s just another cog in the machine—it’s the party that is the hero of Project X.
Much is sacrificed in the interest of that party. Token attention gets paid to things like story and character development. The script doesn’t seem less “written” than “conceived over a game of beer pong.” The lone cameraman setup gets abandoned once the party starts in favor of something resembling a 90-minute music video with little intermissions of insecurity. But once you clear those minor hurdles, you arrive at the party. It is a raging chimaera of all the stories you’ve heard the following day that sounded too good and too outlandish to be true. These scenes are, ostensibly, the hybridized dreams of young men everywhere, with all of the fantasy and minimal nightmare. Misogyny and alcohol abound, and you find yourself rooting for the party to continue despite the levels of personal and property destruction amplifying by the minute.
It is easy to imagine that this is the way the lost scenes of The Hangover would have looked. A pack of ravening wolf cubs, wreaking havoc on the suburbs of North Pasadena, having so much fun that it’s easy to ignore the crass irresponsibility of the whole thing. A booming hip-hop soundtrack keeps you moving through this wonderland of testosterone, with awe and jealousy giving way to the sneaking suspicion that this might all be a dream once things get really ludicrous. But for all of its excesses, the best part of Project X is its ability to invite you to the party, for better or for worse. Because what matters here isn’t the story that’s told by the host, it’s the stories that are shared among the revelers.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
Writer: Matt Drake & Michael Bacall (screenplay); Michael Bacall (story)
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
Release Date: Mar. 2, 2012