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On Shaky Ground: Party movie Project X takes the documentary approach to new depths 

Project X, shot documentary style, displays what goes on inside your not-so-average house party.

Not to be confused with the 1987 Matthew Broderick movie of the same name, in which military-trained monkeys act like people, 2012's Project X finds people acting like baboons. The film is basically Superbad gone turbo without any of its charm.

Nerdy high school seniors Thomas, Costa and JB, (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to throw a party with the hope of having sex and winning fame. The obvious motivating factor in the flick is the necessity for these guys to get laid, especially nice guy Thomas for his 18th birthday. So plans are hatched for a major, babe-filled blowout the night his parents leave town for the weekend. As Costa puts it, "It's about changing the game." Predictably, the festivities get out of hand to gargantuan proportions.

First-time filmmaker and director Nima Nourizadeh does an impressive job of making the action look like one huge continuous splatter of youthful drug-induced alcoholic insanity. It's Superbad meets Cloverfield. In this case, the party is the monster. Once again, we're subjected to the "found footage" style of self-documentary. There are flip cameras, real Hollywood hand-held cameras and fake news footage. There are so many different angles it's hard to tell who's shooting what, which allows the editing to shine, resulting in tiny little moments that are pure cinematic genius.

The performances are all right. And Thomas is excellent as the worried host who is still determined to have fun.

PX pays homage to every party movie on the planet including Animal House, Porky's and all the Girls Gone Wild videos but, at its heart, Project X is still mostly a Superbad remake. Even though the thinly veiled plot includes all the requisite waypoints, this dizzyingly shot flick is all about the chaos. It seems to have the reverse effect it strives for. I felt nauseous after seeing this, not hilariously entertained. The party has nowhere to go but down. In the end, the immutable laws of party physics dictate that the "fun" has to get dangerous, nasty and wrong.

Which brings me to Project X's main problem, I can't tell what it's really trying to say. Sure it's about the set up, the descent, the chaos and the total annihilation. I don't know how many times I heard the words "pussy," "dicks," "bitches," "faggots" and "midgets" mentioned in an apparent attempt to shock. The flick's political incorrectness is its signature, but it's nothing we haven't seen before - just a case of overkill. PX is just montage after montage of people imbibing, stripping, screwing and heaving.

As in Superbad, the dweeb lead gets the girl and everyone rejoices - even if they are punished for life. Herein lies the weird morality: While PX plays out as one nauseating escapade after another, it ends in success. The audience is left pondering if this is irony, tragedy, nihilism or simple David vs. Goliath triumph. Then again, maybe the filmmakers were after something more basic, like seeing if they could throw a party this huge and get away with it.

By the way, did I mention Superbad?

Project X

2 Stars

Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper,
Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame,
Kirby Bliss Blanton

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

Rated R


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