The first scene of Project X shows us just what kind of film it’s going to be: Mean, loud, and not terribly bright. It shows us a couple of teenagers, one of whom is celebrating his 17th birthday today. Coincidentally, his parents’ anniversary is also on this date, and they’re going out of town for the weekend. What does that mean? Party time, of course. His parents insist that it’s okay for a couple of friends to come over, just as long as the car doesn’t get touched, the office isn’t invaded, and it’s only a few people.
I believe the main kid’s name is Thomas, although what are names anyway when you’re filming a spectacle? After his friends convince him that throwing a larger party will make them all popular at school, not to mention allow them to get more than friendly with the females, Thomas maintains that he only wants 20 people max. Okay, 30 people maximum. 50 people absolute maximum! You know that it’s going to be more than that, but Thomas remains blissfully ignorant of this. Or maybe he’s just not too bright; that would sure fit with the rest of the film.
Eventually, that party happens. Oh, what a party it is. If you’ve seen one trailer for Project X, you can guess what the turnout is like. One character estimates that somewhere around 1 500 people, maybe 2 000, show up. It doesn’t just turn out to be a house party — it takes up nearly an entire block. Pretty much everything you’d expect at a normal party happens here, as well as a bunch of things that you would certainly hope not to see. Without spoiling more than the trailers already have, I’ll simply say that the party escalates to greater extremes than would ever be possible in real life.
However, it also goes too far for the film as well. Does this kid not have neighbors? We see his friends talking to people earlier, claiming that there will be a small get-together that might get a little noisy. Once you see how out of control this party gets, you’d think that more than one person would call the cops. One does, but they get turned away after the entire party goes silent for a few minutes. Once it starts back up again, it continues for a long time before anyone tries to break it up. Presumably everyone else except for this one neighbor decided that the party, which consumes an entire city block, was perfectly okay.
Project X suffers from severely slowing down every now and then in an attempt to focus on Thomas and his thoughts about either (1) how the party is going or (2) a couple of the girls at the party. The first tries to bring in the moral conundrum of whether or not this one night is worth the possible years of turmoil it will cause, while the second is basically him playing “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” between the girl he’s known his entire life and the object of his desire.
The thing is, we don’t care about this person, and we don’t care what happens to him during or after this party. You’re here to watch the events unfold, and almost feel like you’re there. That’s why this film is shot like a home movie, isn’t it? The filmmakers want you to feel like you’re a part of the action — like a character. How many characters do you think care about Thomas? They do cheat and eventually end up using many different camera angles to film most of the money shots, but for the most part, our film is shot by a mute who is getting paid to film everything.
With all that said, I’m still not even sure what Project X wants to get across to the audience. For the longest time, it appears to come across as a cautionary tale, i.e., we know that something this out of control is a bad idea, and are more or less waiting on the characters to receive their punishment for it, while also getting to vicariously experience something that will likely never happen to us. But the former never really comes to fruition, leaving the movie without a voice that could potentially make it worth something.
Since that never happens, all we’re left with are mean-spirited individuals throwing a loud, out-of-control party, completely for selfish reasons, while acting like a jerk to absolutely everyone that they encounter. It’s not a lot of fun to be around the main characters, and when it is, it’s mostly because the supporting cast did something noteworthy. It should be mentioned that Project X is a comedy, and it does have some humorous points, even if most of the time you’re slapping your face with your palm as you’re laughing.
Project X is a film all about the spectacle of throwing what could possibly be one of the largest house parties ever. When it focuses on that, it’s actually fairly interesting and there are moments where you’re either shocked or laughing throughout. When it tries to focus on the characters, it falls flat and has difficulty regaining momentum. It doesn’t have a satisfying payoff or much of a message, nor does it have a plot to pay attention to or characters to either grasp onto or like, but it does have comedic moments and it’s never dull. Is it great? Absolutely not. Is it worth seeing? If you want to see awful people throw a party you’ll never get to see in real life, this is the movie for you.
This review first posted for The Gauntlet newspaper