Will somebody please put an end to the endless stream of “found footage” movies? It’s a fruitless hope, of course—so long as budget-minded studios keep making profits on them. The only solution is for audiences to stop going to them. But with the recent “Chronicle” and now “Project X,” that seems unlikely.
The subject this time, though, isn’t a haunted forest, a poltergeist-infested house or a mysterious source of super powers, but a high-school party that goes off the charts when “the kids go wild.” Simply put, that’s all it’s about. The occasion is the seventeenth birthday of Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann), a nice but drab California kid whose parents just happen to be going away for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. That gives his best friend Costa (Oliver Cooper), a crass, motor-mouth manipulator, the opportunity to plan a bash at Kub’s house that will raise the campus cred of their sad little group, which also includes chubby JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). The whole riotous affair will be documented by ubiquitous videographer Dax (Dax Flame).
Of course, the party turns into a huge, out-of-control happening that eventually involves hundreds of revelers, gate-crashers, cops and reporters, as well as fires, explosions and the destruction of the Kub home and half the neighborhood. Of course it’s sort of the reverse neutron bomb of parties in that it only destroys property while apparently leaving all the participants—even the fellow who bursts into flames, as we’re told in the inevitable “what became of them” bits at the close—unscathed. (Still, it does serve the intended purpose of making the guys popular at school, so one supposes it’s all good, so to speak.) The other sliver of plot involves Thomas finally discovering that though he’s lusted after the most beautiful babes in school, his real soul-mate is his long-time pal Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). That’s right, it’s the old “Pretty in Pink” gambit again—an oldie that’s hardly a goodie.
Though directed by Nima Nourizadah, “Project X” is the brainchild—if one can use such a word to refer to such a witless wonder—of producer Todd Phillips, best known for the “Hangover” movies. Teens weren’t supposed to see those “R” flicks, of course, but everybody knows that the ratings system is a sham, so they did, and Phillips is here just rewarding them with a pint-sized version of them. The trying-to-find-out-what-happened stricture is replaced with a more straightforward ersatz documentary approach, of course, but otherwise the characters are doing the same stuff—basically getting hammered, stoned and laid, though not necessarily in that order. The picture is rated R too, for all the good that will do to keep adolescents out of the auditorium.
As for those over the age of consent, as it were, the movie’s appeal will be limited. There’s a fundamental difficulty in that the characters are frankly not a terribly likable bunch. Thomas is such a bland fellow, limply played by Mann, that it’s hard to care much about him, and Brown’s JB is an anonymous side-kick type who can’t hold a candle to Jonah Hill. But the worst of the trio is Costa who’s supposed to be lovably aggressive and duplicitous—and, we’re meant to believe, doing all this outrageous stuff for his buddy’s good (like Ferris Bueller, you see—though in this case the father’s car winds up in a swimming pool rather than a ravine). But as played by Cooper he’s such an obnoxious, insufferable twit that it’s impossible to stand him, let alone like him.
And the level of humor on display is awfully low. Consider that one of the most-repeated running gags involves a mean-spirited midget who goes around punching guys in the crotch. If you think that midget wrestling is howlingly funny, that should really grab you. So should the shots of dogs having at it—usually with other canines, but sometimes not. And the obligatory vomit shots.
But in reality jokes and gags aren’t really much in evidence here. It’s just lots of scenes showing kids acting raucous and crazy. If that’s your idea of a good time, you’ll enjoy “Project X.” If not, this technically mediocre movie doesn’t have much to offer. It’s obviously aimed at the “Superbad” crowd, but it’s really just super bad in every sense.
Or to put it another way, it’s X-ecrable.