Director Todd Phillips is a proud supporter of good-natured anarchy as evidenced by his movies “Old School” and the two “Hangover” films.
It’s no wonder then that as a producer he has slapped his name all over the epic high-school-party-gone-wrong movie “Project X.” Out of control doesn’t even begin to describe this party which comes off as every teenage boy’s wildest dream and every parent’s worst nightmare.
The setup is about as standard as it gets as three socially insignificant high school seniors Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper), and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) plan to throw a party when Thomas’ parents leave town for the weekend.
Yawn. We’ve seen this premise everywhere from “Risky Business” to “Superbad,” but what makes “Project X” stand out is that it goes big by super-sizing the chaos with plenty of low-brow laughs along the way.
“Project X” uses the “found footage” gimmick made famous by “The Blair Witch Project,” in which the movie is filmed by a character in the movie. In this case, the character is Dax (Dax Flame), an AV Club weirdo Costa hires to document the party.
The idea is to give the movie an extra layer of believability, which works surprisingly well because everything depicted has a strange air of authenticity — well, up to a point.
While the party itself is the star of the movie, our three young leads do a solid job of guiding us through all of the insanity.
Thomas is the everyman, our surrogate who experiences the emotional rollercoaster of being reluctant to host the party; being disappointed when it looks like no one is going to show up; being terrified as the party swells to ridiculous proportions, and finally embracing the madness before winding up feeling lucky to have survived.
Cooper winds up being the star of the movie because his loudmouthed take on Costa is the embodiment of that friend we all had in high school who we were never quite sure why we hung out with in the first place.
Costa’s dogged determination to throw an epic party for Thomas’s birthday is quasi-admirable as he secures the booze, the DJ, a bounce house, and even provides security in the form of a couple of over-zealous, Taser-armed, 12-year- olds.
“Project X” is the feature debut for director Nima Nourizadeh, who does a good job of finding a heart in the midst of all the decadence and by keeping the “found footage” gimmick from overpowering the film. Plus, at a brisk 90 minutes, the movie, like good party guests, doesn’t overstay its welcome.
This movie is a celebration of youthful abandon. It’s about that magical time in life when you realize that you are old enough to do anything you want, but before you’re smart enough to understand that you shouldn’t.
“Project X” conjured up several memories from my younger, dumber days and brought a smile to my face for the good times had and for the relief that it was all behind me. These days, though, after 10 minutes at that party, I would need a nap and a complete change of blood.
With all the craziness that goes on in this movie, my only real quibble comes from the fact that it is impossible to believe that only one person in an upper-middle-class neighborhood would call the cops in the early stages of the party. These people flip out if you hang a tire swing in your front yard; no way would drunken teenagers go un-busted.
What it all comes down to is there is a whole lot of fun to be had in “Project X” for those willing to take a walk on the wild side, and as an added bonus you won’t even have any regrets the next morning.
“Project X” is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior, and mayhem – all involving teens. (They should put that on the poster)