Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathon Daniel Brown
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh (debut)
Written by: Michael Bacall (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) and Matt Drake (“Tully”)
Since day one, producer Todd Phillips’ (director of the “Hangover”) teen party project has been shrouded in secrecy. Going to extra lengths to keep the screenplay from leaking and even using a nationwide open-casting call to find a lot of its unknown cast members, Phillips has been reluctant to give out too much information about the film in order to have audiences surprised at what unfolds. Keeping its original mysterious working title, “Project X” is a one-note film that is nothing more than a first-person view into a wild party.
In an effort to raise their status in at a high school where they are nobodies, Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathon Daniel Brown) look to throw a wild party for their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann). When their plan turns out better than expected and hundreds of people show up, things begin to spiral out of control as a camera catches everything that happens on one insane night.
Staying true to the “found-footage” movie tradition, unknown actors were cast so audiences aren’t distracted by anyone with actual star power. While these inexperienced actors may not be terrible, a couple of the characters are. None stick out more than the abrasive and incredibly annoying Costa played by Cooper. His fake gangster persona wears thin fast, and the character becomes extremely grating just minutes into the film. He just doesn’t let up. He’s loud, needlessly vulgar, immature and above all largely unfunny. This becomes a major problem since “Project X” deems Costa the “funny guy” of the movie, hinging many of the laughs in the film on him alone.
Part of what makes “Project X” unsuccessful is how one-dimensional the film is. Rarely can a movie be entirely summed up in one sentence, but when “Project X” is described as “high school kids throw a party that gets out of hand,” that is precisely what it is. It is no more and no less. The characters do not go through any real changes and there is no plot development to speak of. Even the “found-footage” narrative device can’t keep “Project X” from being unoriginal.
The humor in the film is juvenile, with a reliance on visual gags to emphasize how out of control the party is. While there is the requisite nudity and drug taking during the party, some of the jokes are flat out uninspired. For example, in one scene, there is a little person who escapes from inside an oven to punch people in the groin. Even the ribbing between the thinly-written characters (mostly coming from Cooper) is largely mean-spirited.
In the final act of the film, the party truly starts to get out of hand and the footage the audiences sees begins to hit the epic levels that were promised in previews. These scenes are the best in the film and provide some great visual mayhem. There are a few laughs, but “Project X” isn’t a party anyone should plan their weekend around.