Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Project X

It’s no secret that party movies draw big crowds. Granted, those crowds usually consist of viewers in the 15-30 age range, but that’s still a pretty sizable market. Ever since I was a teen, I’ve been a fan of the party genre. I think it harkens back to American Pie and Can’t Hardly Wait, both of which I enjoyed at the time, so I continue to see party movies whenever they come out. That being said, I was incredibly impressed with the new “found-footage” film, Project X.

It’s very rare for me to mismanage my expectations, but that’s exactly what I did with this film. I wasn’t expecting much, just a mix of sex, drugs, alcohol and teens, and while that’s what I got, I wasn’t prepared for its flawless delivery and just how entertaining it proved to be. I dare say, Project X is the best party movie I’ve ever seen.

For those who may not know about Project X, I’ll let IMDb fill you in: “Three high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for themselves. As the night progresses, things spiral out of control as word of the party spreads.”

Pretty simple, right? Indeed it is, and that’s what made Project X so great, it was simplistic. The filmmakers didn’t convolute the film with unnecessary plot lines, dialogue, love stories, etc. Admittedly, there is a love story in the movie, but it is minimal and doesn’t dominate the storyline as it does in comedies like Can’t Hardly Wait and Superbad. The simplicity of the film, namely that a bunch of guys are looking to make a name for themselves while having a good time, is what makes it work.

When it comes to party movies, Superbad is one of the best. I liked that film a lot, but I came out liking Project X even better. The former had a great story and certainly delivered, albeit in a Hollywood fashion; conversely, Project X really had a low-key, realistic feel to it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some over-the-top scenes in the movie, but I swear I could see each and every one of them happening in real life exactly as they did on the big screen.

I was concerned the found-footage style wouldn’t work well with a party-themed movie since it would have been easy to make the audience queasy with a shaky camera, but that didn't turn out to be the case; in fact, it was shot beautifully. Had the film been shot in a more traditional style, like Superbad, it certainly wouldn’t have had the simplistic, low-key feel that I liked so much. For me, it's what defined the movie.

Not only was I surprised by the film’s awesomeness; I was a bit surprised that Todd Phillips served as the producer of this film. Obviously he has plenty of experience with party-like films under his belt including Old School, The Hangover and of course The Hangover Part II, but I was taken aback that such a big name was attached to, what was in my mind, a small and unassuming film.

While the movie had a big-name producer, the same can’t be said about the cast, which contributed to the low-key feel I’ve talked about. Project X features Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown portraying the three teen protagonists. Between them the three have TV, short-film, and feature film appearances, though none of them would be what I consider notable. Despite that, all three put in pleasing performances and endeared themselves to the audience. Often times I found myself rooting for the characters, while at other times I laughed, sympathized and cringed at their exploits.

Speaking of their adventures, that was the best part of the film. Watching things slowly slip out of their control, transforming a simple birthday party into a full-scale riot, was a treat. Body shots, stoned pets, creepy adults, hot chicks, a little person, ecstasy, drug dealers, foul language and sexual frustration are just a few of the things you’ll see throughout Project X. Oh, and one more thing, I don’t recall party films from my teenage years showing so much T & A. Lucky kids these days.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite scene, but beware; it may be a bit of a spoiler. The scene I’m talking about is when a neighbor comes over to break up the party. After negotiations fail and he threatens to call the cops, one of the party’s 12-year-old security guards took a stun gun to the neighbor, who fell like a bag of bricks. While that was a good enough laugh in and of itself, the fact that the neighbor suddenly rises up and coldcocks the 12-year-old kid is even better. I haven’t laughed that hard in quite some time.

According to ComingSoon.net, the movie had such a great opening weekend that Warner Bros.’ has green lit a sequel, with Michael Bacall, who also penned the upcoming 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, returning to write the script. The sequel will also be a found-footage movie, though it is unknown if any of the cast and crew will be returning.

Project X was incredibly entertaining, and it’s going to be a shame if they rush out a sequel just to squeeze the cash cow. It’s hard to have faith in a sequel, but hopefully Phillips learned his lesson from the Hangover Part II and doesn’t produce a cookie cutter copy. Anyway, it’s too soon to be talking about the sequel when the original is still in the theaters. If you’re looking for a good laugh and want to party it up, then go see Project X.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 88%

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