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Movie Review: Project X

March 2, 2012
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Roger Ebert once wrote of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita that when he first saw it as a young man, he wanted to be Mastroianni in the film, living it up at parties, drinking exotic booze, and traipsing with potent women. Years later, he felt pity for the empty, carefree life of the character Rubini – that’s the right mindset for something like Project X.

It’s certainly not as great a film, but I imagine the idiot kids going in will identify with the three characters Thomas, Costa, and J.B., even envy them, in a similar manner, while fogeys such as myself will see them for the mongoloid no-good-niks that they are.

The movie doesn’t take a position, or even focus on the kids that much. They’re simply the vessels that wade through escalating nonsense. The party itself is the real protagonist, and director Nima Nourizadeh just wants to see how far it can go, to the point where if they didn’t stuff that midget into the oven, it’d be a tragic loss.

There’s really no need for a plot summary, as the film barely has one. It gives you three friends and one cameraman, a quick explanation that one of the kid’s parents are going out of town, leaving him and the friends home alone to celebrate his birthday, and some short sequences of inviting classmates to explain where all the people and booze came from.

Nourizadeh seems aware that the boys aren’t very interesting, and so he doesn’t assume we’ll care about them. All we need to know is that they’re irresponsible, inconsiderate, stupid, and brash (you know, teenagers), all of which is broadcast in a scene where they steal a lawn gnome (after pretending to sodomize it) from a drug dealer and he chases them down in their minivan.

Little imbecilities like that make the movie: The young’ns say “sick” like it actually means something; they treat girls like baggage stapled to a pair of tits; they shout banalities like “It’s my birthday!” assuming anyone cares and snap pictures of themselves doing nothing; they attach the family dog to a fleet of balloons; they tase the neighbor who threatens to call the police (and who, a moment later, sucker punches his attacker). Nor do they dwell on the consequences.

They’re not likeable, and they learn nothing, which, if the movie wanted to take the moral high ground and wag its pointiest shame-on-you finger at the audience for joining in the debauchery, would be reprehensible. Thank God it doesn’t; it wants to be fun and funny and very often is.

Yet as ridiculous as the movie gets, it maintains a consistent and almost masterful strain of plausibility. Yeah, I could actually see all this happening, which is strange given the film’s producer (and, according to the poster, its major selling point) Todd Philips, director of The Hangover. But while the film teeters on the brink of surreality, it never topples over. Whether that’s intentional or not (I think it is) it works. I’d hesitate to call this an experimental film, as the connotation may put off some people, but it’s certainly unconventional.

Of course, pretty much every other critic has noticed this, adding that it does look like hell, that the goal is revelry, that everyone is a douche, and they acknowledge that it works in the film’s favor. So if the movie’s achieved everything it set out to achieve, why has it been getting such bad reviews? From my understanding, the reasons are either that it’s not groundbreaking (well so what? shouldn’t that make it merely mediocre or even *gasp* good?) or that’s it’s not funny. Fair enough, but I laughed a lot and enjoyed the hell out of it.

Rating 4/5

Project X is rated R. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh. Written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall. Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Nichole Bloom, and Alexis Knapp’s boobies.

The only major criticism I have is that you should leave once the party’s over.

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