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STUDIO Warner Brothers Pictures
RUNNING TIME 88 Minutes
• Project X: Declassified (5 minute Behind the scenes)
• Project X: Pasadena Three (5 minute casting auditions)
• Project X: Tallying up the Damage (3 minute fun cost analysis)
Girls Gone Wild with a narrative story about 4 high school rejects (including the camera man) who do not respect anything or anyone.
Director: Nima Nourizadeh Actors: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
3 high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for themselves. As the night progresses, things spiral out of control as word of the party spreads.
Just like the lead characters in this film, I have so many ways to go with this review. Unlike the those same characters, I know that what I say can impact my future as a reviewer here at CHUD. If I let wreckless abandon take over, I would just say this film sucks and not to waste your time, and then go back to my regularly scheduled life. I wouldn’t care if you thought I watched the movie, and I wouldn’t care if it was thought I had ulterior motives for a biased opinion. Project X drew my attention immediately as something I would have to see due to conficting opinions by people who have opinions that I value for a movie that didn’t appear to worth a screening or the captivity of my time. Two peers whose opinion I find as educated and insightful (one here at CHUD) both loved this found footage film, yet I saw no immediate appeal beyond stretching the usage for the found footage format.
I don’t care for almost the entire found footage phenomenon that studios are head over heels for. I find that most of them have a hard time staying within their narrative scope, often resorting to sad scriptwriting efforts to solidify the use of the amateur cameras while the directors and cinematographer generally get to use the same style to mask their lack of vision and allow them to proudly show a product that at one time would have been considered apathetic or careless. As a reviewer, it also makes things harder because there are preconceived opinions formed by found footage supporters and their opposition. My personal opinion is to avoid these films, but as a lover of all things film related, I just can’t do it completely. 2012 has been possibly the year the found footage film turned a corner though. 2012 brought us Chronicle and the festival favorite (and one of my favorite films of the year) V/H/S. This, and well formed opinions of the movie set my expectations that this film would add to the 2012 found footage revolution.
My expectations were dead wrong.
Project X has everything the trailers promised. It has tits, drugs, fights, horizontally challenged thugs, kids jumping off roofs, helicopters and flamethrowers. It has an adorable little dog that somehow PETA didn’t blow up over it being put in abusive situations. The problem is the story is weak, the jokes few and far between and it banks on the outrageous shock factor in watching how inept our main protagonist is in controlling his own life and making his own decisions. Worse, the movie is sold as legitimate party movie crossed with Girls Gone Wild, but the video series was ever so popular because the girls looked like average girls. Project X has professional strippers. This is meant to be a high school party but the promised nudity comes from surgically enhanced middle aged strippers. I would have rather them not even push that button rather than every time they showed T&A it made me think how unbelievable it is that these high school losers got strippers to not only come to the party but to willingly strip for the hell of it. It pulled me right out of the movie. It’s like watching a 30 year old attempt to play a pre-teen. It doesn’t work, and it completely removes you from the movie. The main teenagers in Project X look like teenagers. None of them appear as if they were older than they parts they played which made anyone outside of that age range look all that much older.
The premise for the story is simple. Some naive parents are leaving their high school son at home while they travel to some destination unimportant for some unimportant reason, but as their child is not one of the popular crowd they have little to no concern that he would ever betray their trust and let a single stranger into the house. The unpopular kids use their pooled resources to buy beer, get pot and advertise their party on MTV and VH1 and any other national syndicated programming the older parents wouldn’t listen to. Add some side story with a love angle and a separate one about lust for the high school dream girl to add some drama, and have it all filmed by supposedly one student doing who was hired to film all the illegal activities.
First, what brain dead teenager films themselves buying drugs and alcohol. That alone is moronic. These are teenagers, and I did some pretty dumb stuff at that age myself, so I can buy that the three leads thought this was an ok idea. As people rolled into the party, wouldn’t some of the under agers say I don’t want to be on tape? Were all 2000 plus partiers brain dead? Even if they were of legal age, they were with hundreds that weren’t. So before we get into much else, we have to accept everyone in the movie has an IQ near the size of the little dog.
The love story was so poorly handled that it may have been better to not even include it. All of the chemistry for the main love interest must have happened off screen, because our lead goes from she is cool to I’m in love in the blink of an eye. I know these are kids, and teenagers kind of stumble in and out of love physically and mentally without ever even knowing how to spell the simple four letter word. Why is the awkward female friend always nearly as hot as the hot girl nobody will ever have a chance with. And how does our nerd appear on the radar of the high school dream girl? That’s never touched upon. I knew lots of nerds that knew how to throw killer parties, and even had great charm that never caught the eye of any “dream girl”. Maybe she likes nerds is what some would argue. That’s correct, some girls like to do the chasing, and generally like shy guys when they do chase, but our kid doesn’t appear funny, is always scared to talk to her to the point of avoiding her and yet she goes to this party almost alone (we never see her with friends after she gets to the party) and cries out for his attention any time he appears in the same room. If he would have been less weird when talking to her at the beginning of the film, I may not have gone on about it as much, but I’m a nerd (and IMHO I have a hot wife, but I wasn’t scared to talk to her), and I’ve been around nerds all my life. This may happen, but the chances have to close to the odds of winning the powerball.
Todd Philips produced this film and his name also garnered comedic respect due to his work on Old School and The Hangover. Nima Nourizadeh was a first time director, who may have made a sustainable found footage film. A film that did nothing to expand itself above the naysayers of the found footage format. In many spots, I found there to be a lack of direction to pursue, so they would cut to random montages of T & A, dancing, music and other filler to make the running more respectable (88 minutes with a long set of credits, making actual story time not much longer than 80), with at least two montage segments lasting 5 minutes each. Were these montages consisting of the humorous tone the movie attempted to imply, they would not have taken the viewer out of the moment, but instead, they showed to be nothing more than time padding.
The movie does have some laughs and some far fetched but entertaining repercussions for stupid things that occur during the setup. I can’t say I enjoyed Project X, but I did enjoy a handful of the jokes in it. I’ve seen a lot worse movies even within the current year, but overall I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone over the age of 20, and I definitely wouldn’t consider it an improvement over the standard of the found footage gimic. My rating of the film is a 1.5, not to be confused with the final rating of the Blu.
The package for the edition I reviewed came decently loaded. It had a UV copy, a DVD and the Blu. The Blu had both the 88 minute theatrical cut and the 92 minute extended cut. The four minutes was more of the montage footage that I personally didn’t care for, but I liked having the choice between the two. The jewel case artwork is also much better in comparison to the standard DVD artwork.
The special features were all interesting but short. The standard behind the scenes and an audition featurette both relied heavily upon the director and Todd Phillips to talk about the making of the film and choosing their three leading actors and each clocked in a little over 5 minutes. The casting portion also appears on the standard DVD as the only special feature. The third extra on the Blu is a little comical take on the cost of a party of that scale. They have some funny stuff in there involving the douchebag neighbor and the dog and at just three minutes contained half the total laughs of the entire film. By the way, only during the featurette do we really get to see that the strange female friend is a complete knock out and far more attractive than the dream girl. I am actually upgrading my rating of the total package due to the short but sweet entertainment found within the special features.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars