Hollywood bases way too much of its success around trends. No one can fault them, because trends sell extremely well. We’ve got our vampires, our sequels, our prequels, our threequels and of course, our Liam Neeson vehicles (none of which are that good). So who can blame them for taking two of today’s most prominent fads and smashing them together to create Project X? Not me, because the mixture of home video style shooting and raunchy, party comedy actually works, for the most part.
Whenever a film comes packaged with the name Todd Phillips, it’s pretty easy to know what it will deliver: babes, booze and belly laughs. Even though he’s only serving as producer this time around, handing the reins over to newcomer Nima Nourizadeh, Project X easily delivers on all three. The handheld camera style immerses the audience in the party of the decade, and it is definitely an insane experience.
The story behind the party isn’t any different than the story behind any other party: Thomas (Thomas Mann) and his friends Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to throw a huge blowout while Thomas’ parents are out of town for their anniversary. They have a silent classmate come along to record the whole thing, and BAM! We have a movie.
But who needs some deep, convoluted plot when there’s a party this huge filling the screen? In the vein of films like Superbad and The Hangover, Project X takes advantage of the simplicity of a party and runs with it. The situations that arise from the set-up are priceless, ranging from a crazed drug dealer to a hilarious security team that takes things way too seriously. The whole films is like a Where’s Waldo? of parties, with every shot containing something interesting if not downright hysterical to look at.
The cast does an excellent job of creating a realistic feeling to their relationships. Mann, Cooper and Brown all have their own individual moments, but when they’re together, they play off each other organically. Even Costa, who is the perfect caricature of the pressuring, lovable best friend, has his moments of genuine sweetness. These moments of connection between all of the leads gives Project X a human nature that keeps the film (and the party) lighthearted throughout.
And what a party it is! Halfway through the film, the characters disappear for a bit, leaving a space of a few minutes that is filled with shots of everybody doing their thing, and it’s amazing. This is the party that people wish their school had; the kind of party that is created when hungover versions of the night before pass through the lips of too many people. Although Project X has its faults (we’ll get there in a second), the atmosphere of the party couldn’t be more perfect.
But, of course, the movie stumbles a bit like the partiers it follows. The whole handheld camera gimmick, while used successfully for the most part, starts to feel fake once the party gets into full swing. There are almost impossible shots of the party that make it hard to believe there was just one guy filming the whole thing. Of course, other cameras are used, but the jumps are just a bit too much to believe.
Speaking of too much to believe, the ridiculous stuff that happens towards the end of Project X is pushing it just a bit too far. I’m not saying that it wasn’t hilarious to watch unfold, but unlike Superbad which was at least rooted in reality, the end is somewhat of a leap. With that being said, the rest of the film benefits from Nourizadeh‘s crisp directing. Depending on the success of his debut here, he just might have a good career ahead of him.
Screenwriters Matt Drake and Michael Bacall are pretty sharp as well, as the dialogue is consistently funny and believable. The cast delivers their lines as though they were at the party, so credit should be given all around for keeping Project X interesting for its entire run time. Everything here works together to create an experience that hasn’t really been accomplished before: the perfect party movie. Of course we’ve all seen Animal House and every other classic out there, but not until Project X has the essence of the party scene been captured so well.
Let me put it this way. I go to Ohio University, which has a reputation for being the biggest party school in the country. When I walked out of the theater with my friend, he told me that we shouldn’t be allowed to screen this in our town (Athens) because it would cause everyone to rage like they never had before. He’s got a point, because Project X contains so much energy that it left me ready to run all the way back to my dorm. So, despite the few small flaws here and there, you really can’t find a better party movie than Project X, because no other movie has successfully captured every aspect of a rager until now. Just try not to do everything you see here; the real police aren’t as nice as those in Hollywood.