I’m going to preface this review with a bit of a personal event which happened to me recently. On Saturday, March 16th around 9pm, I was riding the bus on way home. Shortly into the trip, the bus stopped to pick up a dozen teenagers just dicking around together. When they got on, they were loud, they were brash and they were disrespectful. And that’s before they started throwing ice at the bus driver. The bus driver tried to get them to stop being morons and let him get on with his job, but they started taunting him. Meanwhile, a couple of them which had already gotten aboard started holding the back door open so their friends could get on for free (as if the driver would let them on board after that…). Soon enough, they driver kicked all of the teens off the bus and started driving away as they started to punch and threw ice at the bus. The thing is, I knew when I saw that big crowd of kids that nothing good could come of it. Sure, while that might be prejudice on my part against teens, and while they are subjected to that sort of prejudice on a frequent basis, it’s not exactly unearned. In general, teens (especially groups of teens) are f–king self-absorbed morons.
What does that have to do with Project X? Basically everything, as you’ll soon see.
As a bit of background, I had heard about Project X being like the found-footage version of American Pie, but it didn’t really interest me. But then, much like with Noobz, I read an article about how the movie was really, really terrible on multiple levels. Maybe I’m a bit of a cinematic masochist, but I find this sort of indictment irresistible. Nevertheless, even I wasn’t prepared for exactly what it was that I was signing up for.
I’m not even going to mince words or build up any sort of uncertainty about what I thought about this movie, but rather I’m just going to state it upfront and outright: I absolutely loathed it. I was taking notes as I was watching it, and these notes read like a descent into madness – my first note was literally “less than 1 minute in, when the guy does a crotch grab and then starts yelling ‘HEY, I WANT SOME PUSSSSSSAY!!’ I know I am going to hate this”. By the end, my notes have lost coherence, becoming little more than garbled swear words decrying the movie, its characters and the filmmakers. The only consolation is that I get to write this review to try to capture why I hated it so much… I hope you enjoy this, because I know that I am going to.
First of all, it should be noted that Project X is a part of the found-footage genre. Now despite what you might think, I actually am not a found-footage snob like some reviewers. In fact I have quite enjoyed the majority of the films I have seen in the genre, such as The Blair Witch Project(which was quite frightening), Cloverfield, REC and Chronicle (which, in my humble opinion, really represented an evolution of both the superhero and found-footage genres). In fact, the only found-footage movie I didn’t really like was Diary of the Dead, but not due to the filming style, but rather because of the weak story and characters. All of these films took a central gimmick (the hand-held camera) and kept it consistent, using it in interesting ways (especially Chronicle). However, I felt that Project X used its central gimmick incredibly ineffectually. For one thing, it feels like it is really nothing more than a gimmick, used because it’s popular right now (a la, Paranormal Activity) and costs less to make. While this is a more minor issue, the use of the camera doesn’t really have consistency – the perspective is largely based around a single camera, but without warning it jumps to someone else’s camera a few times during the movie. In Chronicle this made more sense because the singular camera wasn’t what was important, but rather surveillance in general, but it feels like little more than convenience in this film. Finally, and most importantly, the camera is used in an extremely unnatural way. I’m not talking the Cloverfield-style “put down the camera and run!” sort of unnatural – I can live with that. What I mean is that the cameraman will document stuff which makes absolutely no sense for him to capture as a guy who is filming for a party.The movie forces in “quiet moments” where two characters talk privately to one another (you can tell they’re emotional because no one is talking about banging bitchez) or parts where the camera is watching from far away and yet still perfectly captures the dialogue going on. Even little things like changing angles during a conversation are forced in and just break the illusion of consistency. Then there’s other issues – why do they have a cameraman documenting a party which hasn’t even been planned at the start? Why did they get a cameraman who they don’t even know? Why are they documenting using an expensive camera when they’re just a bunch of teenagers? Honestly, it doesn’t make any sense and really breaks the illusion.
Moving on to the characters, who happen to be some of the most obnoxious douchebags I’ve ever seen in a movie. The most grievous offender is Costa, a loathsome little shit whose only priority and care in life is getting laid. I think he was meant to be endearing in his selfishness, like Stifler in American Pie, but he just comes across as a massive asshole. Maybe that’s because Sean William Scott is a much better character actor than Oliver Cooper, or because Stifler always got his comeuppance, or maybe even because he had redeeming traits. Whatever the case, this does not apply to Costa. He is gleefully irresponsible, self-centred, sexist and homophobic, even playing pranks to get babies to cry for a laugh. Holy shit, no I did not watch the North Korean propaganda version of Project X by mistake, the guy I just described is one of the freaking heroes of the movie.
The other characters aren’t even worth going into detail on because they can be summed up in a sentence or two. The supposed protagonist, Thomas Kub, is basically just a geeky teenager caught up in a party that he can’t control. His friend, J.B. is a fat loser, and that’s literally all you need to know about him. Kirby is the generic love interest who Thomas (and his friends for that matter) somehow doesn’t notice is not only really hot, but also has a crush on him for whatever reason. Finally there’s Alexis, the popular girl at school who, again, wants to bang Thomas for some inexplicable reason. Alexis Knapp (the actors in the film share their characters’ names for the most part) claims that she wanted her character to be more than the typical “hot chick” archetype, but that didn’t come out in the movie at all.
Okay, so by my tally that leaves us with a cast of flat characters and then one massive asshole to round it out. Well that’s fine and dandy, but terrible characters alone don’t sink a movie – after all, I quite liked Final Destination 5, and the majority of the cast there were pricks. So what did I think of the movie itself then? Well let me put it simply: less than 15 minutes in, I wanted to turn it off. The characters were so obnoxious that it was painful to watch. Not only that but there’s also a lot of empty space filled with pointless stuff, such as the couple minutes in the film where the main characters corner Costa in a bathroom stall and dump garbage on him… never before has mean-spirited pranking been more boring. Or how about the part where Costa makes pelvic thrusting motions at a lawn gnome for 10 seconds before deciding to steal it in little more than an obvious plot contrivance (since it turns out that the gnome was filled with ecstasy). Then there’s the pointless stuff which was just plain gross – I thought it was screwed up enough that they decided to film a girl taking a piss on the driveway (which she didn’t seem to have a single problem with), but then they also show another guy getting gang pissed on. BLOODY HELL. Ha ha, teenage antics and all that, right?
Anyway, the party gets ridiculously out of hand, and the neighbours come to try to break it up because it’s 11:30pm and the guy can’t get his freaking baby to go to sleep because of all the damn teenagers being morons. Sounds like a pretty reasonable request to me, but then again I’m not an abhorrent dick like Costa. He basically tells the guy to screw off and then his security team freaking tasers the guy out of nowhere. WHAT THE HELL. This guy is then treated like he’s a massive dick, when he’s acting totally reasonably.
You might notice that I haven’t really focused that much on the actual party that the movie revolves around. Well, what can I say? It’s a video of a party. There’s lots of time spent watching people drinking, doing drugs, running around naked and just acting generally irresponsible. It’s like watching a video of fireworks – sure, it might have been cool to watch for real, but do you really care about it when it’s just a video? For that matter though, how the hell did no one die at this party? J.B. does a freaking roof jump and breaks his pinky finger like it’s no big deal (he’s literally laughing about it), and a guy with a freaking FLAMETHROWER shows up and starts torching everything. But beyond the ridiculous things which happened in the movie, there were a ton of ways in which one of these idiots could have killed themselves, from overdoses to the parts where people are blowing up f–king beer bottles on the stove all over each other.
As for other issues with this movie, there are many. I could mention that the only reason that the movie features a midget (or, uh, I think little person might be the proper term now?) is so they can throw him in the oven for a cheap laugh. I could focus on homophobia, but I think that it’s really a minor issue in regards to this particular movie. No, the real focus should be on the ridiculous amount of sexism. With the exception of Thomas’ mother and a store clerk, literally every woman in this movie boils down to two things:
- Tits, and
Remember when I was talking about Kirby being the love interest earlier? Normally in a teen comedy of this ilk, such as American Pie, the love interest will generally be fleshed out as something more than the T&A which most of the girls are shown as in the movie, if only by a little bit (in the case of American Pie, think Heather in comparison to Natalia). Kirby barely falls into this category – she’s completely undeveloped and really only serves as T&A half of the time anyway (quite, uh, literally at one particular moment where she steps out of the pool). Of course, she walks in on Thomas with Alexis, but she gets over it at the end because apparently if a guy’s sorry and you throw an epic party then you can get away with anything. Kirby’s hardly the exception though, since every other girl in the movie is ridiculously good looking and overtly sexualized. As far as we’re concerned, they all came to the party to have sex, full-stop. Even the freaking news anchor at the end of the movie is nothing more than a pair of boobs.
By the end of the movie, the characters have caused hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of dollars worth of damage, but there’s hardly any acknowledgement of the consequences of their actions. Thomas’ dad barely even seems to care that his son burned down his house and destroyed his car (in fact he’s almost impressed). The epilogue claims that Thomas is the only one who actually suffered any sort of retribution for his actions (although it’s softened in that he gets Kirby), whereas Costa and J.B. get off completely scott-free. If you actually threw a party like that, you can be sure you’ll be getting a criminal record and probably arrested as well, which doesn’t exactly look great on a resume (not to mention the lack of a degree due to all the fines you had to pay). Possibly worst of all, Thomas is turned into something of a martyr – he was just trying to have a bit of fun with 1500 other people! Why should he get in trouble for that? Putting aside the obvious, this is an extremely irresponsible line of thought, and has already had its consequences – in the wake of the movie’s release, lots of total dumbasses decided to throw their own Project X Parties. The consequences of this should be pretty freaking obvious: millions of dollars of damage has already been caused and at least one person has died. I will reiterate what I said at the start of this review: teenagers are morons. Especially when they get together.
To put a point on things, Project Xwas horrendous. To people who defend this movie by saying that it’s just fun, that it’s not going for any Oscars or anything, I must say this: Terminator 2 is also fun. The difference is though, that Terminator 2 is an awesome movie, whereas Project X is a massive pile of shit. Why watch Project X when you could watch Terminator 2? If you think that’s an unfair comparison, then try this: Shoot ‘Em Up is a stupid movie, but it’s incredibly fun to watch. Project Xwas abysmal. Rather than try to explain just how bad it was, here’s a link to Thesaurus’ entry for “horrible”. There’s only one other movie I’ve seen that I hated more than Project X (and I’m going to withhold it for now because I want to write a retrospective on it sometime in the future).