by George Sax
Imagine, if you will, the late youth-comedy specialist John Hughes making a movie about the Vandals invading and sacking fifth-century Rome, combined with a suburban-kids-level comic version of Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust, and you’ve got a rough idea of what Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X is like. The vandals here are an almost wholly white mob of ostentatiously over-privileged adolescents in an LA suburb, and it isn’t Rome they trash (modified-limited spoiler alert!) but a residential block in North Pasadena.
There are rather obvious antecedents for this movie, especially Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Paul Brickman’s Risky Business, both of which involved misbehaving teens and a prized automobile. When 17-year-old protagonist Thomas’s (Thomas Mann) father, about to depart for the weekend, admonishes his son that the Mercedes sedan is off-limits in his absence, if you don’t immediately guess what’s in store, you’re probably too impressionable to be at this movie.
Project X’s setup is stockroom stuff, except for the currently fashionable video-within-a-movie conceit: What you’re watching and listening to is what Thomas’ schoolmate, the largely unseen and unheard-from Dax, is recording on his camera. This device is only infrequently used with any real wit and seems to have allowed for some crude and arbitrary editing. The nerdy unassertive Thomas, with the underhanded, manipulative assistance of his assertively grubby-operator-of-a-pal Costa (Oliver Cooper), is planning a small birthday bash for himself in his parents’ absence, a plan Costa hijacks. The party becomes a mega-riot of drug- and drink-fueled sexual license, property damage, and police battling. The filmmakers’ only significant contribution to the movie formula was to ramp up the grossness and cartoonishly outrageous conduct. They do have the chutzpah to insert an ostensibly sweet little romance subplot that’s supposed to make nice and tie everything up sweetly.
It all industriously panders to the kids, including a lot who shouldn’t be admitted to an R-rated flick. Youth films have often pandered, of course, but usually the pitch hasn’t been on this one’s crummy level.
Watch the trailer for Project X
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