From producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover , Old School ) and first time director Nima Nourizadeh, Project X (2012) is a found footage-style examination of high school culture that successfully manages to sink to the lowest depths of entertainment.
The moment Project X’s destructive catalyst Costa (Oliver Cooper) declares to the camera during the film’s opening scene that he’s going to ‘get his dick wet’ we know what type of humour we’re about to become subjected to. He’s organising a ‘game changing’ house party for his incredibly uncool friend Thomas’ birthday (Thomas Mann) – conveniently having the whole event filmed as an additional gift. Thomas’ parent are away celebrating their anniversary, leaving their apparent ‘loser’ of a son home alone for the weekend. What transpires is a monumental party that any ageing rock star would be pleased to call their own. However, things soon escalate out of control, with Thomas’s party falling into chaos at a rate only match by the film’s rapid descent into a loathsome collection of increasingly inane jokes and set pieces.
Well shot through a montage of deeply immersive handheld camera work, Project X brilliantly submerges the viewer into its wildly exaggerated scenario. However, this approach is also the film’s undoing, making anyone over the age of 21 feel old, whilst those the film is undeniably marketed at (shamelessly coming across as a piece of aspirational filmmaking for young teenage boys) will never come close to replicating the absurd concoction of alcohol-fuelled sex with surgically enhanced models.
The moment an aggressive groin-punching midget is thrown into the mix, any semblance of plot is instantly resigned, resulting in a barrage of vandalism towards Thomas’ parents’ house. Rather than evoking a compassionate response of concern for Thomas’ dilemma in the viewer, what we get is little more than a VICE magazine party thrown for the cast of 2007’s Superbad. Admittedly, Project X manages to create a naturally-evolving environment of accelerated destruction – however, there’s only marginally more enjoyment to be found in viewing this melting pot of adolescent hormones than there is in trawling through a collection of staged stunts on YouTube.
There’s even a horrendously underused and cliched romantic sub plot between Thomas and his long term female friend carelessly implemented in an attempt to relay the message that what’s most important in life is to stay true to yourself. Even this clumsy subplot is diluted by a film that openly celebrates ‘jock’ culture – reiterating the belief that actually in life you need to be deemed ‘cool’ to be a success.
What’s most repugnant about Project X is its utter lack of moral consciousness, with the overriding message being that such disregard for property and community deserves little more than a slap on the wrists – a message that couldn’t be more ill-advised in a time of such amplified social despondency.