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Project X – Impressive and appalling at the same time

Project X - Theater Review
Release Date: 3/2/2012 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 2 Clacks

'Project X' offers a lot of nausea-inducing shaky cam imagery with appalling and irresponsible storytelling ... but it still manages to have some impressive directorial touches.

A party goes out of control in "Project X"

Project X is the code name for an epic party thrown by Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) for their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann) on his 17th birthday. It just so happens that Thomas’ parents will also be out of town for their anniversary, so the boys take the opportunity to make sure this will be the party of all parties to put them on the map at school. Thomas sets some ground rules for his friends — no more than 50 people, no one in the house, no one touches his father’s car — but Costa knows that unless things go big, they’ll always be the weird, practically invisible nerds at school. What could go wrong?

I’ll start off by saying that if you’re male, between the ages of 15 and 23, you will absolutely love this movie. It’s edgy with frenetic, hand-held camera work, full of pumping party music and mostly naked young girls, lots of drinking, some drug use, people trying to have sex, fire, explosions, property damage, a face-off with the police … it’s really a fantasy come to life and put up on the screen. I, however, am not in that demographic.

Project X, from an adult’s point of view, is simply appalling and irresponsible. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just a movie but I’m waiting for the day some kids get the idea to attempt an epic party like the one in the movie and the aftermath that comes from it. There certainly have been plenty of movies about parties that got out of hand, but the depiction of alcohol consumption and drug use for a film that, even though it’s rated R, is plainly directed at teens is irresponsible. Call me a prude, but I don’t think that behavior needs to be glorified. I find it more upsetting because there are really no consequences for the boys’ actions. Thomas’ parents are upset, but his father even seems a little pleased to find out his son, whom he calls a “loser” early on, had this kind of behavior in him! And, of course, Thomas, Costa and JB are now gods at their high school. Meanwhile, Thomas’ house and the neighborhood are in ruins (and all I really cared about at the end was that the dog was okay when it was all over). Congratulations, great party! I also don’t understand why, if the neighbors were upset by the noise, the police only came one time during the course of the party that went well into the night before the riot squad was sent in.

On the positive side of things, I have to say that while I was made terribly nauseous by the relentless shaky cam — and I am still feeling the effects hours after seeing the movie — I was impressed by the technical aspect of the film. It’s never explained how we, as an audience, have come to witness this video project, but for a “found footage” movie it’s been put together extremely well. While I was trying to ignore much of what was happening, I found myself watching the choreography of events that the camera would catch in some of the continuous shots. Towards the last part of the movie when things are getting totally out of hand, there is just so much going on that had to be planned to perfection as the camera moved from room to room that I found myself appreciating all of the work that went into the film. I liked a lot of the music too, particularly the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll” remix.

But, seriously, if I had a teenager I would be terrified for him or her to see this movie. I don’t know how well it will do in theaters, but it is sure to have a long life on video where ratings don’t matter all that much. Some people are calling this a cross between Animal House and The Hangover (and it is produced by Hangover director Todd Phillips), but that is truly an insult to Animal House, and this even makes The Hangover look like nuanced, screwball comedy. It really reminded me more of Cloverfield … and I just kept wishing for the monster to come and put an end to the whole thing. I think my friend and fellow critic, Teddy Durgin, summed it up best: “Warner Brothers should be ashamed of themselves.”


Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

9 Responses to “Project X – Impressive and appalling at the same time”

March 2, 2012 at 12:08 AM

You know, just watching the commercials all I could think was “Oh man, I really hope that dog is OK!”

March 2, 2012 at 1:59 AM

LOL It’s the Independence Day syndrome! Anyone can die in a movie, just don’t dare harm a hair on that lovable dog’s head or you will lose the audience instantly.

March 2, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Well, it doesn’t help that my parents have a yorkie, so I’m already fond of terriers.

March 2, 2012 at 5:24 PM

I did like the Yorkie in the moon bounce! Oh, but when they tied a bunch of balloons to him and set him aloft, I was not happy (but he was tethered, at least). But as the danger increased, the more concerned I was for the little guy.

March 8, 2012 at 8:44 AM

Now I won’t feel so bad when I rub my parent’s dog with a blanket to see her hair stick up from the static. At least I didn’t get the dog airborne!

March 3, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Well to be fair everyone else in Project X is an unlikable, drunk a-hole. Worrying about the dog is simply caring about the only likable character in the movie.

And this is coming from someone who enjoys drunken antics.

March 3, 2012 at 9:28 AM

I’m in the male 15 – 23 demographic and I hated this movie. Sexist, homophobic, cruel to fat people, cruel to animals, cruel to everyone except the rich white straight dudes. The characters were all horribly unlikeable, with no development whatsoever, and the message of the film was that the most important thing in the world is to be popular. What a hateful, bullying film.

March 3, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Ah, I should have said the American male 15 – 23 demographic! ;-)

March 8, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Dan, did you end up seeing Chronicle? I know I mentioned this to you before, but it manages to also be a found footage movie about teenagers doing dangerous things, but actually well-written with a message.

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