Three high school seniors — Thomas (Mann), Costa (Cooper) and JB (Brown) — plan a birthday house party to enhance their reputation among the cool kids. Yet news of the festivities spreads like wildfire resulting in home-made flamethrowers, SWAT teams and cock-punching midgets.
This found-footage teen party comedy starts with a fake apology to the residents of the suburb in which the destructive party action takes place. It should go further than that, and apologise to anyone unfortunate enough to watch it. Undoing, in one fell swoop, all the good work Chronicle did for the found-footage genre (or, indeed, that any comedy has done for, well, comedy) Project X wants to be a love letter to movies like Weird Science, Porky’s and Superbad, with a little bit of producer Todd Phillips’ The Hangover thrown in for good measure. Instead it’s the cinematic equivalent of someone chucking a brick through your window, affixed to a dog turd in a box.
Criminally witless – it’s a movie whose idea of humour is shoving a midget in an oven; then having said midget punch people in the testicles – it disingenuously presents itself as realistic and edgy, but shies away from really pushing the envelope when it comes to drug use (ecstasy and pot; harder stuff is assiduously avoided) and sex (boobs, no bush).
Surprisingly, some major talent – Joel Silver, Phillips produced; Scott Pilgrim co-writer Michael Bacall had a hand in the pamphlet that passes for the script – were involved, which makes it doubly galling that this film could be so utterly vacuous. Every line is misconceived, every situation entirely devoid of laughs. First-time director Nima Nourizadeh may orchestrate the explosions and the Keith Moon-lite debauchery with a decent amount of flair (although the ‘shot on handhelds’ gimmick wears thin very fast, and incorporates all manner of filmmaking tricks and professional camerawork not usually attributable to blitzed teens), but when it comes to comedy, he has the sure and subtle touch of The Hulk.
A celebration of stupid, a funfair of fecklessness, Project X’s chief fault lies with what custom dictates we must refer to as its characters. The main trio, played by newcomers Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Brown and Thomas Mann, are spectacularly unlikeable, the kind of unrepentant, nihilistic, vile, venal, animalistic, avaricious, charmless, entitled, sub-Kardashian, stunningly irresponsible brats who can destroy lives and total an entire house and neighbourhood, causing damage running into the millions of dollars, all in the name of getting wasted, and simply shrug their shoulders in louche indifference. Ferris Bueller they ain’t.
At no point does anyone act in a way that could be recognized as normal human behaviour. Being stuck in a lift with these world-class douchebags for five minutes would be unbearable; being forced to endure them for 90 minutes is as close to torture as you’re going to get this side of Gitmo. Cooper’s brash, bragging Costa, in particular, is the most annoying movie character since Jar Jar Binks. You’d never tire of punching him.
Last year’s The Inbetweeners Movie showed that you can mine this subject – the last blossom of youth, the indulgence in irresponsibility, the desire to get high and get laid – for big laughs, while approaching it with a heart and brain. Project X is coming at this from a much lower, baser place. It is possibly the worst film of the last 20 years. It’s certainly the worst comedy of the last 20 years, and is an utterly horrifying vision of Teen America. If these guys are the future, we’re all fucked.
Witless, charmless, teen twaddle. Let’s take all prints off the film, and bury them. Don’t bother marking the spot with an X.