Your kids could make this while you’re x-ing it in Acapulco

The proverbial cats are away and these mice intend to party hard. Thomas’s parents have foolishly left their teenage son at the helm of their home for his birthday weekend. Initially reluctant to turn the organisational reins over to his loud-mouthed friend Costa, Thomas questions whether they’re popular enough to fill a room, let alone hold a house party. Costa hires some neighbourhood kids to do the security, a mysterious schoolmate to film the entire event, and promptly sets about marketing the evening by blitzing messages to everyone with a mobile: “Ugly bitches, stay home.” And so the stage is set for the most debauched, apocalyptic, drug addled, booze-fuelled event that ever spilled onto the sleepy streets of suburban Pasadena. Turns out they needn’t have worried about numbers.
The scope of the party is something to behold. What begins as three nerds hoping for close encounters with females of the species culminates in flame throwers and SAS commando units. Refreshingly, these youth are able to trash things, take ecstasy and steal with relatively few consequences. I say refreshingly because you’d expect most films from a major studio to feature misplaced morals. Here there are none. In the grand sweep of things, the film succeeds in depicting a happening of breathtaking scale. Technically too, many shots are long unbroken takes that not only required careful choreography (particularly the action sequences), but special consideration to lighting. Unsurprisingly for a house party, the music is wall-to-wall and mixed loud, providing a full-blooded counterpoint to an all too anaemic narrative. There are diverse contributions from an impressive list of names, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Metallica to Kanye West and Eminem. In fact, it seems a good portion of the budget must have been spent on the soundtrack. Beyond that though, the film fails on every level.

It’s the smaller details that betray the film’s lack of worth. The film is presented as a found footage/fly on the wall doc, and despite being comedy, some adherence to the form is expected. Early on in the film, Thomas’s parents are unknowingly filmed as they discuss their son’s prospects in private. When his dad dismisses his only child as “a loser”, without any protest from Thomas’s mother, any believability the film might have earned thus far, collapses. Such a moment might work in an absurdist comedic context but here it undermines the documentary form of the film. Of course, the film, helmed by first-timer Nima Nourizadeh and produced by The Hangover director Todd Phillips, is intended to be funny – laughs are supposed to come via observed moments ‘caught’ on camera. During the whole running time, I laughed twice.

Project X is derivative of many better examples of the genre such as American Pie (1999), Porky’s (1982) or Weird Science (1985). As such, there are clichés abound, including the obligatory ‘you just trashed my dad’s car’ scene and the ‘nerds earn respect’ resolution (come on, how else could it end?). There’s also a predictable ‘true love under your nose’  subplot (amid borderline misogynistic objectifying) that borrows heavily from more likeable John Hughes ‘80s fare (Some Kind Of Wonderful, Ferris Buellers Day Off).

Sound like a potential guilty pleasure? If only it was half as fun to watch as it must have been to make. At 88 minutes, the film manages to outstay its welcome, playing like an overlong episode of The Inbetweeners with 100 times the budget and none of the charm. It’s big, loud and pointless. It’s probably going to be massive.

Project X (15)

Dir: Nima Nourizadeh; US comedy, 2012, 88 mins; Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
Premiered March 8
Playing nationwide
 





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