September 20, 2020

Project X Throws a Bad Party

posted on: Wednesday March 7, 2012

Jorge Lucas ’12/A&E Staff

The ‘70s discovered the party movie as a reliable source of humor, drama, and satire of teen culture with Animal House, and the genre was gloriously revived in the 21st century with Superbad and taken to new extremes with The Hangover. Though Project X, incidentally produced by Hangover director Todd Phillips, claims to be the ultimate party movie, it painfully fails to live up to the cleverness and sincerity of its predecessors.

The beginning of the film sets up every plot point far too easily. Thomas’ parents go on vacation, leaving him the house for a small birthday get-together and urging him not to touch the new car. Thomas’ unabashedly raunchy friend Costa spreads the word about a huge party at the house for “no more than 50 people.” Thomas’ completely platonic childhood friend is the remarkably beautiful Kirby. Oh, and Costa buys marijuana for the festivities, robbing his drug dealer and running away in the process. What could possibly happen next?

The rest of the film plays out like a hip-hop music video as the party gets impossibly bigger and out of hand with more drugs, booze, and naked girls than Kid Rock’s tour bus, until not even the police can quell the madness. Director Nima Nourizadeh attempts to inject the story with heartfelt moments as Thomas admits his love for Kirby, but they fall emotionally and predictably flat, ultimately getting lost in the party’s mayhem.

Most of the humor is heaped on the character of Costa, played by newcomer Oliver Cooper, who tries to model himself after Jonah Hill in Superbad but fails miserably. For all of his bullying and disrespect, at least Hill showed heart; he was a jerk, but a lovable one whom we allowed to carry the whole film. Costa betrays no redeeming qualities, and Hill’s performance looms ominously over Cooper’s.

There are, however, several laugh-out-loud moments. Some of them come from the shock of each new disaster at the party, but most of them are thanks to the character of J.B., Thomas’ portly, well meaning friend. J.B.’s innocence shines brightly in the chaos, and that he gets picked on so harshly by Costa makes his small victories at the party all the more sympathetic.

What is so discomfiting about Project X, besides the obvious script, is that these teens get away with it. Even as the film’s target audience, I felt incredibly uncomfortable sitting in a sea of high schoolers who laughed uproariously throughout the film and left the theater seemingly elated and inspired. The characters in Project X are faced with no consequences—there is no threat of death, disease, overdose, or arrest. The harshest punishment they get is a slap on the wrist from barely disapproving parents. This is Larry Clark’s haunting film Kids, only without the AIDS.

Though the audience, comprised of adolescents who undoubtedly snuck in, clearly enjoyed the film, I could not help but worry for a demographic that doesn’t know any better. They were drawn in by gratuitous fun and humor lacking all the subtlety of Dazed and Confused, or even Superbad, and were probably given some crazy ideas for the weekend. Those other films wittily parodied the teen’s perennial quest to drink and get laid, while Project X hopelessly glorifies it, and it could be a whole lot funnier.

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