Three losers looking to get some tail? Check. Crazy drug dealer? Check. Drugs and alcohol to incite chaos in hormone-overloaded teens? Check. The most epic party ever? Check. Using the same formula teenage audiences have come to love (and hopefully not grown tired of), writers Matt Drake and Michael Bacall simply take it to absolute extremes. The mock-doc, found-footage-film Project X revives the tried and true teen party genre by following a group of friends that are hosting the biggest birthday bash ever to gain the ever-elusive cool factor in high school. The movie does not pretend to have any morals. All it aims to be is a high schooler’s fantasy of raging harder than any movie has done before. But despite these efforts, the film leaves you craving for more.
For his 17th birthday, Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann) lets his friends Costa (Oliver Cooper), JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and creepy documentarian Dax (Dax Flame) take the reins. The party invite does not only reach the entire North Pasadena High School, but eventually also goes viral with posts on Craigslist. The party goes from being a potentially small get-together to a big blowout hosting 1500 people. That does not include the countless movie-goers who feel like they are experiencing the party in real time. Director Nima Nourizadeh’s debut film should not be written off; he does manage to make the audience believe they are part of the debauchery. Using the ever popular amateur recording technique also seen in Chronicle this year, Nima capitalizes on the unrefined quality of the film. If he had used a professional steady-cam, the party would become less believable and more cheesy.
Although Project X does not purport to be anything more than a rager to end all ragers, it still lacks substance. Movies like Superbad and House Party have more of a plot even though they are still mindless movies. Project X throws that aspect away. Sure, there are some really funny gag moments. The drug dealer, T-Rick (Rick Shapiro), is completely crazy and eventually sets fire to the whole neighborhood with a makeshift flame-thrower in search of his garden gnome full of ecstasy. Then there is the stock character of the angry little person (Martin Klebba) who goes around punching people of all genders in retaliation for being stuffed in an oven. However, this shtick can get old (and rather tasteless) fairly quickly in an 88 minute movie.
Then you’ve got the best friend and the bodyguards who never cease to deliver a gem while onscreen. First there is Costa, the quintessential best friend trying to give his buddy a night to remember while also living up to the hype that he builds about himself throughout the show. At the movie’s end, Costa is awaiting results from multiple paternity tests from that night. Oliver Cooper does an incredible job embodying the creepy, oversexed teen. He is definitely a stand-out performer. And there is the security team, who tries its best to keep the party under control. Everett (Brady Hender) stands out as the taser-wielding mini bodyguard. He may not be able to do a lot of damage, but he still is a criminal mastermind in the works. Let’s hope he returns in the sequel.
On the other hand, there is Thomas Kub, who just remains a one-note character. You do wish that this night ends well for him; even even his parents think of him as a loser. Still, Kub does not really break this stereotype as the party is ultimately out of his hands, and he never fully takes advantage of the scene. He simply walks through it trying to maintain control until eventually he grows resigned. Sadly, Kub does not even accomplish his main goal of getting together with a girl whether it’s a girl who has always been by his side (Kirby played by … Kirby Bliss Blanton) or the girl of his dreams (Alexis Knapp). Sure, Kub realizes that Kirby is the girl he wants by the end of the film, but the audience is left hanging.
The writers miss another brilliant opportunity by failing to unveil the mystery behind Dax. The dark teen with an unknown past remains behind the camera or disappears when someone else takes the camera. He never misses an intimate or crude moment.
Nevertheless, the party must go on. Despite the one-dimensional characters and outbursts of insanity, Nourizadeh refreshes the genre that makes the movie flow in real-time. There’s a lot of work to be done on the sequel. But in the meantime, let the parties commence.