Project X review

A house party goes chaotically wrong in the found-footage comedy, Project X. Here’s Caroline’s review...

If a Skins movie ever gets off the ground, the Project X method might be a good way to go. Being pretty much a grand depiction of a high school party gone to chaotic heights never imagined, the film shouldn’t work for anyone older than its young target audience, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining ride from start to finish. You’ll exit the cinema feeling like you’ve just attended the most epic party ever, no matter how old/uncool/antisocial you feel you are in real life.

Even if a manic high school party filled with drunk 17-year-olds sounds like your idea of hell, Project X will still do a good job of taking you along for the ride. The story and characterisation are paper thin, with the sense that the filmmakers were keen to get those pesky talky bits out of the way so they could get to the good stuff. The set up is thus: it’s Thomas’ (Thomas Mann) birthday and best friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) wants to throw him the best party ever, scoring greater social status in their school as a result.

Every second of their mission, joined by third musketeer JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), is documented by mysterious loner Dax (Dax Flame), and so the film becomes a kind of pseudo found-footage movie, complete with a Warner Bros disclaimer at the start thanking those who had contributed footage to the final compilation. Like fellow participants in the sub-genre, we’re supposed to believe that this really happened; the names kept largely the same (Footloose star Mile Teller even stars as himself) and real celebrities seen commenting on the carnage after the fact.

And it has happened, with parties thrown in the UK after Skins became a sensation recalling scenes of Project X almost exactly. One saw 300 uninvited guests descend onto the ‘small gathering’ in Bournemouth, another a severely traumatised family dog after partygoers gave him drugs. Daily Mailers in the UK have already seized upon this style of uncontrolled party, but the US were famously unreceptive to their own remake of the E4 show, so who knows how they’ll respond to Project X‘s drunken shenanigans.

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The film is extremely shocking (in a good way) at various points, and will delight younger viewers with the excess on display, but it also manages to be quite believable. It’s a tale as old as time, with three teenage have-nots reaching legendary status through a series of winning moves, getting the desired girls into bed and causing inconvenience for the older generation. But no matter how far the chaos escalates, and you won’t believe how far it actually goes, the high-point right before will soften the blow of the next astonishing plot point.

It helps that we care about Thomas, whose home is getting trashed, and we never lose the desire to see him triumph by the end. Characterisation is not Project X‘s strong point, the guys coming across as one-dimensional and sex-obsessed as the topless females adorning the backyard swimming pool, and absolutely no one comes off looking very sympathetic. Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton) is the only female character actually given a role beyond character types, but even then she’s relegated to the ‘childhood friend who’s too good for the geeky main character’ zone, and we all know that scenario always has a happy outcome.

The friendship between the three leads seems desperate to recall those in superior teen films like Superbad, and with a knowledge and appreciation of those earlier films, viewers will be able to apply whatever history they like to the relationship. But this is not high praise for Project X as it stands alone, and it relies too heavily on tropes and stereotypes from its genre to fill in the gaps. Director Nima Nourizadeh is far too preoccupied with shooting the shindig to bother with such things as character development, and it’s a good and bad thing.

The party looks absolutely stunning, steadily growing to heroic proportions before, like Thomas, you’ve had a chance to process what’s already happened. The central concept of Project X will almost certainly turn off any cinemagoers over 25, but I’m keen to encourage those on the fence to give the film a chance. It’s throwaway fun aimed at enticing the youthful masses, but the entertainment factor compensates admirably for what’s lacking elsewhere.

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3 out of 5