Project X

***

Reviewed by: Sophie Monks Kaufman

Project X
"In short: lad fantasy."

This is a found-footage based teen comedy about a trio of high school seniors and a fourth near-silent cameraman, who plan to fast track their way out of nerdville with an awesome party, dudes. What follows is pleasure-fuelled madness. This is a world where all the girls are hot, a responsible adult gets tasered and a midget punches people in the balls. In short: lad fantasy. Throw into the mix Todd Phillips, director of The Hangover, as producer and you'll get an idea of exactly where the jokes are pitched.

Not all of our heroes are gung-ho penis-brains who learned their attitudes to women from Playboy TV. Lead character, Thomas (Thomas Mann), described by his father as, "a sweet kid but a loser", only agrees to throw a house party for his 18th after pressure from boorish best mate, Costa (Oliver Cooper), a Seth Rogan type 2.0.

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This pair is joined by JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) - whose function is to facilitate fat jokes - and Dax (Dax Flame) - whose function is to film everything. It is unfortunate that Project X comes so soon after Chronicle, a film that legitimises the found footage concept by having angry characters storm towards the lens before the screen goes black. In Project X, no one seems to care that a creepy goth dude is filming them. This is distinctly odd in the early school scenes although becomes more understandable in the wasted party scenes.

Wasted party scenes are the make or break factor in what is essentially a wasted party film. Tone is patchy with Thomas switching from freak outs (he hides in the bathroom to film an apology to his parents) to euphoria (Girls! Girls! a water pistol loaded with tequila! Girls!) without making the audience privy to what could be an entertaining gear change, but Project X scores a major tick in the music column.

Bass vibrates from the screen throughout a fitting selection of bouncy house and gangster rap. The best sequence is a slow-mo montage that plays during an A-Trak remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' thrilling Heads Will Roll. It could be a promo for an Ibiza Uncovered documentary with topless girls bouncing on a trampoline and a Laptop DJ playing to a field - well, garden - of energetic ravers. The organic nature of this scene is a credit to first-time director Nima Nourizadeh's decision to shoot party scenes by inviting extras to a house then getting them to party for days while filming took place.

The music serves a second, excellent purpose of drowning out cruel humour. Costa's response to JB's: "I'm working on something downstairs" is, "the only thing you're working on is diabetes". Poor JB doesn't escape many scenes without a waistline jibe. We get it. He's fat, teenagers are harsh. Ha.

Yet for all the lowest common denominator humor there is integrity to Project X's approach to its subject matter. "Hey we want some pussy," is growled over pumping bass within the first five minutes. This is the film holding up its hands - or perhaps yanking down its trousers - and showing you what it's all about. Perhaps the quest to attain pussy through hosting a crazy party is not a tale to satisfy highbrow tastes but, as the film acknowledges within its dual conclusions, it is something teenagers reward with the highest status: acceptance.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2012
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Project X packshot
A birthday party spirals out of control.
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