out of Five
Running time: 94
Project X is impressively made, well acted and has a few guilty pleasures, but the documentary conceit doesn't really work, the central message is utterly bogus and it's ultimately let down by some appalling misogyny and a deeply unlikeable central character.
What's it all about?
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh and produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), Project X centres on three high school nobodies (Thomas Mann as sweet natured Thomas, Oliver Cooper as cocky Costa and Jonathan Daniel Brown as tubby nerd J.B.) who decide to throw the 17th birthday party of a lifetime, only for things to spiral dangerously out of control when 1,500 people show up. On top of that, the entire thing is being recorded for posterity by wannabe filmmaker Dax (Dax Flame), with various contributions, found footage-style, from people at the party filming events on their phones.
Essentially, this is like a mockumentary version of Superbad, though the comparison doesn't really do Project X any favours, since Mann, Cooper and Brown lack both the comic timing and charisma of Cera, Hill and Mintz-Plasse. That said, their friendship is convincing and the film does at least convincingly pull off the moment where Thomas decides to let the party continue, despite the by-now-obvious consequences.
In addition, the film achieves its basic intention of creating a legendary high school party, though whether you'd actually want to go to that party is a different matter. At any rate, it does deliver a few guilty laughs, such as an angry midget punching people in the balls or some over-zealous 12 year olds taking their job as security a little too seriously.
The main problem with the film is that Costa (the main party instigator) is a deeply unlikeable character who, a punch in the balls by a midget aside, receives no real come-uppance. The film is also disturbingly misogynistic and aimed squarely at horny 15 year old boys (ironically, the film's target audience will have to sneak in to see it), with its gleeful cornucopia of topless shots and constant labelling of women as “bitches” (and worse).
The film also seems devoid of any real moral code, the central message seeming to be that it's okay to drink, take drugs and cause untold damage to an entire neighbourhood, as long as everyone at high school thinks you're cool afterwards. On top of that, the documentary conceit doesn't work at all, not least because the set-up (how the film is assembled) isn't fully thought through.
Despite a few guilty pleasures, Project X is neither as funny nor as emotionally engaging as it should have been and is ultimately let down by its unlikeable central character and dodgy moral centre.