Sunday, March 11, 2012

Movie Review: Project X

Project X **
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh.
Written by: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall.
Starring: Thomas Mann (Thomas), Oliver Cooper (Costa), Jonathan Daniel Brown (JB), Dax Flame (Dax), Kirby Bliss Blanton (Kirby), Brady Hender (Everett), Nick Nervies (Tyler), Alexis Knapp (Alexis), Miles Teller (Miles), Peter Mackenzie (Dad), Caitlin Dulany (Mom), Rob Evors (Rob), Rick Shapiro (T-Rick), Martin Klebba (Angry Little Person), Pete Gardner (Older Guy).

Project X made me feel old. I’m only 30, and yet I’m already feeling like an old man decrying the youth of today for their shallowness and saying things like “when I was a teenager…”. Project X is about a high school house party that gets wildly out of control, with hundreds of people laying waste to the house and the neighbourhood at large. It is a celebration of the same type of idiots you see populating the Jersey Shore. But I’m not here to pass moral judgment on the movie – or the generation of kids who inspired it. Nor am I going to join the chorus of people who worry about what sort of behavior Project X is going to inspire in the youth of today – mainly because I think those people have it backwards. Project X is not going to inspire teenagers to be idiots – it is inspired by idiot teenagers.

Project X centers on Thomas (Thomas Mann) and his two friends – Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). The three are high school losers – although Costa sees himself as some sort of Jewish playa. It is Thomas’ 17th birthday, and his parents are going out of two. Costa has convinced him to have a party at his house – and that he’ll even plan the whole thing. Thomas worries that no one is going to show up, and he’ll look like an even bigger loser than he already feels like he is. He needn’t worry.

Project X is shot in the newly en vogue style of the “found footage” film, popularized by The Blair Witch Project more than a decade ago, but just recently left the horror genre – first with Chronicle earlier this year (which was actually a very good film), and now moving into the idiot teenage comedy. In all honesty, the found footage style is the only style which would have worked at all for this film. Why? Because this is a film without a character to care about or a meaningful line of dialogue. But that seems almost appropriate for this film – the party is the star, and this is not a movie about characters, but about the youth culture in general. A culture where teenage boys treat teenage girls as nothing more than sex objects – and the girls, sadly, seem to embrace that role. Only two girls really get any screen time – Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton), the girl next door that Thomas should have realized was the one for him well before the party, and Alexis (Alexis Knapp), the “hot girl” at school who turns out to be nothing more than a “star fucker”. That doesn’t stop dozens of other girls from striping down to nothing – which doesn’t take them long since they start out wearing nothing next to nothing.

I have to admit though that Project X held my attention throughout – I was never bored by it for a second. It is inventively shot, proving that the found footage genre can do more than just horror films. And it does look like one hell of a party. And yet, this is a comedy, and I never laughed once. The movie doesn’t try very hard to get laughs though – that would require jokes, and jokes require a screenplay, and this movie doesn’t seem to have one.

I couldn’t help but think about American Pie while watching Project X – perhaps it’s because there was a preview of the upcoming sequel American Reunion at the beginning of the film. I remember people decrying that movie as gross at the time (which came out when I was in my last year of high school), but Project X makes it seem tame by comparison. At least in American Pie, the girls the horny guys treated as sex objects surprised them by being actual people. The girls in Project X seem to embrace their roles as sex objects and little else. And sadly, I do not think that Project X is that far off the mark. But just because Project X gives a fairly accurate picture of current youth culture – exaggerated of course – doesn’t mean that the film, or us in the audience, should celebrate it.

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