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Project X (2012)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Where's The Kid From "We Need To Talk About Kevin" When We Need Him?"
1 stars

One of the funniest movies that I have ever seen--though one that is sadly not that well known to the general public--is "The Party," a 1968 farce that marked the one non-"Pink Panther"-related collaboration between Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards. In it, Sellers played a sweet-natured but klutzy Indian movie extra who is accidentally invited to the lavish party being thrown by the director who fired him that morning for ruining a complicated shot and proceeds to inadvertently destroy the entire shindig with his well-meaning bumbling. What makes the film so absolutely hysterical is not the numerous sequences of over-the-top destruction (though those are very funny) but because of the combination of Sellers' utterly likable characterization--especially the schism between his genuine desire to be nice and helpful and the havoc that results from those seemingly benign impulses--and the way that Edwards gradually escalated the mayhem in ways that demonstrated that while the on-screen celebration was losing control, he never was in his depiction of it.

While watching "Project X," a new film that also deal with a party that dissolves into anarchy, I found myself thinking about "The Party" a lot in much the same way that a drowning man might picture land or a starving man might imagine a steak--as a way to distract from the horrors I was currently experiencing. Those of you who, in defiance of all common sense, decide to go see "Project X" may find yourself doing the same and even if you haven't seen "The Party" (and trust me, it would be a better use of your precious time and money), you can substitute it with any other wild party of your choice. It will be easy because there are very few movies featuring overblown bacchanals that are worse--hell, even the legendarily depraved "Caligula" provides more genuine entertainment value than this one and even supplies slightly more dignity for all concerned in the bargain.

Having nothing to do with the vaguely remembered 1987 film of the same name featuring Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt attempt to rescue some chimpanzees from a nefarious military experiment, "Project X" instead offers viewers a film combining elements of two of the most beloved cinematic sub-genres of all time--the raunchy teen comedy and the found footage narrative gimmick. Via an ever-present cinematographer (along with the aid of material supposedly gleaned from cell phones, news footage, police cameras and the like), we follow a trio of teen doofi--amiably dorky Thomas (Thomas Mann), obnoxious would-be stud Costa (Oliver Cooper) and chunky dimwit JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) as they plan a party designed to both celebrate Thomas' 17th birthday and make them more popular in the bargain. Seeing as how it is being thrown at Thomas' house (his parents are conveniently out of town because his birthday is also their anniversary), he wants something of a manageable size--he is more concerned that babeish best pal Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton, which I must admit is one of the best names I have heard in a while) shows up--but thanks to Costa's overhyping of the event, what once began as a simple affair grows until the house and immediate area is inundated with hundreds of partygoers, more booze, drugs and bared breasts than a Motley Crue tour from the late Eighties, a bouncy castle, a car in the pool and a midget in the oven. As the night goes on and things get wilder, Thomas' concern is no longer whether he will be able to clean up the house before his parents get home--his concern is more along the lines of whether there will be a home for them to come home to at all.

From a narrative standpoint, "Project X" doesn't really have much to offer viewers--the closest it gets to high drama comes when Good Girl Kirby (you can tell she is a Good Girl because she is blonde and never quite gets around to completely taking her top off) catches Thomas in an indelicate position (metaphorically, at least) with one of the Bad Girls (you can tell she is a Bad Girl because she is dark-haired and gets around to taking off her top and then some)--but come on, no one goes to a movie based around a wild high school party expecting subtlety and a near-anthropological examination of teenage existence (unless that movie is called "Dazed and Confused," of course). No, one goes simply to enjoy healthy amounts of skin and salacious behavior that allow them to vicariously experience what they firmly believe that all the cool kids in high school are doing every weekend or were doing back in the day. (I can't say for certain if any of this occurred back in my day due to a grisly combination of social ineptitude and vague ostracism.)

As cinematic goals go, this may not be the most admirable of the bunch but when done correctly (as in the aforementioned "Dazed and Confused" or even the first "American Pie," the results can be very funny indeed. In this case, however, producer Todd Phillips (the "genius" behind the likes of "Old School," "Due Date" and the "Hangover" movies) has added his toxic touch to the format and while this means that there is certainly more nudity on display than in most high school sex comedies of late (even if those who partake seem old enough to be the top-tier-strippers at the second-tier gentlemen's club in third-tier cities), the film goes overboard on everything practically from the beginning to the point where it keeps trying to top itself with sheer outrageousness and keeps failing in its attempts. Done correctly, wild excess can be quite funny (for a perfect example, see Steven Spielberg's vastly underrated masterpiece "1941" or John Landis' equally impressive "The Blues Brothers") but handled improperly, the end result can leave you begging for a drink, a shower and a Tylenol the size of a Buick and "Project X" is just that sort of film.

"Okay," so you may be thinking, "the old fogey who never got invited to wild high schools blowouts thought the stuff here was too much--so what?" Although inelegantly put, I will concede the point but I have many more complaints with the film than that. For example, our trio of heroes are a resolutely uninspiring lot--Thomas is a colorless and personality-free dork that make the best pal in "Ferris Bueller" seem like a dynamic go-getter by comparison, tons-of-fun JB is so indifferently sketched in that the film can never quite decide whether he is supposed to be the genius of the group or the moron while Costa is so irritating, so loathsome and so resoundingly off-putting that for as long as the film remains in theaters, Rick Santorum will have competition for the title of America's Biggest D-Bag (Sweater Vested Division). Then there are the increasingly ham-fisted ways that the film employs in order to shock audiences and create a "You gotta see this!" moment. I have already mentioned the car in the pool and the midget in the oven but we are also privileged to such sights as a 12-year-old get punched full-on in the face by a grown man, increasingly arcane alcohol distribution systems and the appearance of a crazed drug dealer who, having been burned by Costa, tries to get revenge by setting fire to the entire neighborhood and the partygoers with a flamethrower before getting blown up, sights that just struck me as a little bit beyond the pale for what is supposed to be a mindless teen comedy.

And while I understand that this is not the kind of movie where it pays to be a logic Nazi, this film pretty much redefines all known notions of implausibility but asking us to believe that only one, instantly neutralized, neighbor bothers to call the cops to complain even when the area begins to resemble the Do Long Bridge sequence from "Apocalypse Now" and when the police do arrive, the one in charge (perhaps realizing that the film needs a little more padding) insists that "We have to let this thing burn out before we even think of going in" despite the countless number of laws being broken all around him. Finally, and most irritating of all, is the conclusion that seems to have been cynically constructed only to shamelessly pander to its target audience without coming close to hinting at any real ramifications (save for a couple of jokey title cards at the end, one of which suggests that one of the kids may be guilty of murder). Spoiler Alert! The ending finds our hero's home and life ruined but it is cool because the kids at school give him a round of applause on Monday morning and the Good Girl seems amenable to letting him back into her pants. Thank you again, Todd Phillips, for teaching us to laugh about life and love once again.

Featuring the production values of a porn flick (not to mention the moral center and background players), "Project X" is an awful glob of teensploitation that is less "Superbad" than just plain superbad. How bad is it? It kicks off the proceedings with the soundtrack blaring the 2 Live Crew classic "Hey, We Want Some Pussy" and that winds up constituting the closest that it comes to both quiet dignity and quality writing. It is so bad that it laboriously sets up one potential sight gag involving someone jumping off a roof while wielding a video camera and then messes up the payoff so badly that you'll wonder why they bothered in the first place. It is so bad that it deploys a running gag featuring shenanigans involving a pet dog that even Michael Vick might take offense at. It is so bad that it concludes with an appearance by Jimmy Kimmel and for once, it feels as though he is the one doing the slumming. Who knows, maybe the entire film was nothing more than an elaborate ruse designed by Matt Damon in order to publicly humiliate Kimmel as part of their long-running media feud. Okay, it probably isn't but I guarantee that the thought that this might be the case is far funnier than anything on the screen itself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20920&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/01/12 18:17:54
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User Comments

6/11/12 aaction movie fan hedonistic teen throw out of control party fun to watch wrong to doo 4 stars
3/28/12 Lenny Zane A less than riveting plot with most episodes boring in pace and or content. 2 stars
3/20/12 Luis Not as good as Superbad, but still worth the watch 3 stars
3/02/12 Rena DiFiore reminds me of Peter Sellers in "here" 4 stars
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  02-Mar-2012 (R)
  DVD: 19-Jun-2012


  DVD: 19-Jun-2012

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