Despite earning a prestigious 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought I should still check out Project X. It’s the kind of movie that critics will tend to hate no matter how fun it is, and 73% audience approval is another indicator to possibly ignore the tomatometer percentage for this one.
I tend to like party movies – the first American Pie, Superbad, Old School, Dazed and Confused, Animal House, etc – and Project X isn’t one of the exceptions. Call it real life nostalgia, call it mind-numbing entertainment, call it just plain fun; there’s something about a bunch of misguided youth assembling in one place to get messed up… that calls to me. I never attended a single high school party in my four years there (I like to think it was because I was better than those people [cries into snuggie, eats Ben and Jerry’s]), but I went to plenty of college parties, that’s for sure. And if a film can capture but a glimmer of that atmosphere in the deep recesses of my brain (I mean, I don’t actively *remember* a lot of the parties I’ve been to…), then it usually wins me over. That’s the simple level my mind works at for certain things.
Project X isn’t quite an original concept, however. The first act seems eerily familiar to Superbad. And I don’t mean that in the way that critics compare Superbad to every movie involving teenagers since 2007 (‘Superbad meets Animal House‘ ‘Superbad meets Twilight‘ Superbad meets There Will Be Blood‘ [make that last one happen, someone]). I mean that Project X started out nearly identical to Superbad. There are three friends: the innocent one, the loud foul mouthed one, and the nerdy socially awkward one whom the foul mouth one always makes fun of. They are all losers, and they want to become more popular. So they decide to throw a party (I guess Superbad was *attend* a party). There’s the popular bully who belittles the losers in the beginning, but (surprise!) attends the party with the losers later in the film. The innocent one wants to get with his longtime lady friend (or lady-who-is-just-a-friend), who is attractive and popular, but associates with the losers. They all kind of just want to get laid. The nerdy one puts on a comically out-of-place outfit, and everybody chuckles. At first, Project X is just Superbad. It really is. And since it was shot with the first person/found footage gimmick, it felt sometimes like some kids were just sweding it. What escalates Superbad higher, though, is the fact that Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse have stronger personalities, better screen presence, and most importantly they have well executed comedic timing. They are just funnier. But it’s slightly unfair to do acting comparisons, as most of the people in Project X were first time actors.
I actually liked the first act, despite it’s unoriginality, because it was genuinely funny. I’d say about 70% of the jokes were hit, not miss, to me. Even though the Costa character is basically doing his best 2007 Jonah Hill impression, it’s still comically written (in a vulgar, immature kind of way). Once the second act starts and the party gets underway, the film had my full, undying attention.
The party sequences were basically music videos, intercut with chaos, with random plot points here and there. There actually isn’t much story going on in the film. They attempted to insert a romance plot with the innocent kid, which was unnecessary for the most part. But it doesn’t actually take up that much screen time, so it’s not a big deal. The main conflict of the film is the impending doom of the protagonists as the party gets more and more out of control, and they watch their house ever-so-slowly get completely destroyed. Through tons of two second shots of randomness, they did a good job of creating an atmosphere of complete bliss and mayhem. In terms of filming a nudity-laden, loud, festival of irresponsible people; they did about the best job they could. It eventually turns into an all out riot by the third act, and the natural escalation of events kept me entertained the entire time. What starts off as teenagers getting drunk, turns into getting naked and dancing, turns into sex, turns into violence, turns into property damage, turns into full scale riot, and naturally ends somewhere around the guy showing up with the flamethrower.
Maybe the moral of the story (and I don’t think they were really shooting for a moral) is that if you put enough assholes in one place, things will eventually turn ugly. Or maybe it’s that good things never last? Or is it the shallow message that throwing a party actually *does* successfully make you popular? I don’t know. I think I’m going to stick with the message of the film being if you stick to your guns, and work hard to please others, eventually girls will take off their tops in your backyard. Uhhh… I don’t know, I give up. Here, have a drink, you’re up next for beer pong.
After finishing the film, I went home and and was curious as to who directed this movie. The director of Project X apparently got credibility by shooting music videos and Adidas commercials. I don’t think anything in the world makes more sense than that last sentence.
Look, I guess I’m not really trying to sell anybody on spending money to see Project X. I would actually feel bad doing that, because I *know* most people I know probably wouldn’t like it. I have maybe three or four close friends who would really get a kick out of it, and then everyone else in my life would probably dislike it. Or at least call me crazy for rating it so highly. I think if my mom or one of my Aunt’s saw it, they’d call it one of the worst movies ever made. When I told my girlfriend the premise of it, she said “Nope, don’t want to see that…” (so we saw The Lorax, which was WAY worse in my opinion). In fact, I’m not sure many women will enjoy this film. It’s kind of designed and executed with immature dudes in mind. I was going to say young immature dudes, but the theater I was in had myself and maybe 7 other older gentlemen (no ladies), and they were laughing their asses off. Let’s just say it was the kind of crowd I expected for a titty-heavy party film on a Wednesday.
I’m not going to say that Project X is a mindblowing, great film; but I do think there are a lot of redeeming elements in it. Perhaps I just love seeing chaos unfold in movies, and I especially love random chaos and dark humor. In a way, Project X did a better, more fluid job of random chaotic editing than The Tree of Life did. At least it made sense from a coherency standpoint. Perhaps I’m just blinded by the fun of Project X, and it’s actually a terrible movie. But I liked what I saw. This is totally my guilty pleasure film of 2012, isn’t it…?
8 out of 10