There is something inherently intriguing and entertaining about watching people do foolish, and yet exciting, things in the movies. There is something, dare I say, magical about watching characters do the unthinkable, about watching situations slowly spiral out of control. This all applies to Project X, a ridiculously over-the-top party movie which, while far from artistic, succeeds through its commitment not to the usual narrative beats, but through its absolute insanity.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh from a screenplay by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall (who co-wrote Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Project X is a curiously executed found footage film, which at times seems to completely abandon this premise, but at the same time isn’t afraid to embrace its potentials. (Much of the proceedings are filmed by the group’s mysterious friend, Dax.) The film follows high-school friends Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper), and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) as they throw a birthday bash for Thomas, whose parents (played by Caitlin Dulany and Peter Mackenzie) go out of town for the weekend.
Costa is gleefully crass and unapologetic in his insistence on throwing the largest bash imaginable – despite Thomas’ parents insistence not too – and proceeds to invite seemingly all Pasadena to what he is advertising as the most epic party of all-time. Now Thomas, Costa, and JB won’t exactly win popularity contests, so they’re not all that surprised when evening rolls around and nobody has showed up – save for Thomas’ friend and inevitable love interest, Kirby (Kirby Bliss-Blanton) – yet just as they are about to give up hope, the crowds begin to arrive.
Thomas is extremely (and justifiably) worried; the crowds continue to roll in, as Thomas’ backyard begins to fill. A party bus even arrives carrying Miles (played by the hilarious Miles Teller), who is apparently an ex-baseball star at their high school. The alcohol begin to flow, the music begins thump, and the party is officially out of control. The trio even hire two young neighborhood kids as security to keep Thomas’ house out of ruins, and of course be on the lookout for neighbors and cops. Yes, the premise and execution are completely ridiculous, but its the fact that the filmmakers embrace this so much that the film succeeds. With an excessive amount of lewd behavior, partying that never stops, and the gleeful way in which the party slowly spirals out of control, Project X is everything you’d fear could go wrong during a party – and it’s entertaining as hell.
From an angry drug-dealer seeking revenge, to an abusive little person (Martin Klebba), and even an angry and violent neighbor attempting to shut down the party, there is never a slow moment. Project X moves at a frantic pace, capturing every aspect of this party through the documentation of Dax and other present cameras. Soon the party generates an unstoppable life of its own – how did the party get so big? “It’s plus one.” – as nobody, not even law enforcement, can put a stop to it.
At the center of this movie is it’s use of music. It would be hard to think of a movie released in recent months that uses its soundtrack so much to its advantage. The soundtrack, which includes tracks from Kid Cudi, Tyler the Creator, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nas, and more, masterfully dictates the pace and rhythm of each scene. When coupled with the sleek camerawork, which incorporates an impressive amount of slow-motion and interesting angles, the soundtrack breathes all life into the movie.
While “found footage” is usually used to ground a movie in reality, the climax eschews so far from it that the gimmick at times feels entirely useless. Like a continuous Jackass stunt gone-wrong, Project X never ceases to entertain as a party-movie on steroids, taking the good and the bad from such a premise and spitting out an absolutely insane 90 minutes of cinema.
Rated: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem – all involving teens.)
Project X opens nationwide on March 2nd.