Friday, March 16, 2012

Party Time

Ever wanted to host THAT party? That epic, insane event that buries itself in into the memories of you and your guests and never lets go? A party where the liquor flows freely, everybody's inhibitions drop to next to nothing and people will speak of the events that transpire that night for years to come? Of course! There's not a person alive for whom that level of infamy would not appeal on some level, let alone the teens to whom Project X's marketing department is targeting. No, this isn't a remake of the 1987 sci-fi thriller starring Matthew Broderick and a chimpanzee. Thank God for that. Instead, producer Todd Phillips (best known for directing the Hangover franchise) brings us the ultimate party film, so that those of us who never experienced that kind of craziness could instead witness it first-hand on the big screen.

It's unpopular high school student Thomas' (Thomas Mann) seventeenth birthday, and his friends are attempting to put together the biggest party of all time to celebrate. With Thomas' parents out of town for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary, Thomas and his fellow unknowns Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown), along with Thomas' childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton), have the house to themselves, with Oliver inviting everybody to what he assures them will be the celebration to end all. They also recruit AV club student Dax (Dax Flame) to record the entire series of events on his video camera. What happens that night defies all conventional odds, and irreversibly change the way these three are looked upon by their fellow classmates, neighbors and families.

Yup, these are your three heroes. Shake your heads in unison.
The film takes a long time to get going, as early scenes in which we are introduced to the three protagonists gets old fast. Of the boys, only Costa really gets to be too much, voicing the bad-boy tendencies that cause the events of the film to take place. Frankly, Costa is an annoying prick, wearing his welcome out quickly with a vulgar tongue, abusive attitude towards his supposed friends, and generally negative view of everything around him. Yes, he sets everything in motion that takes place that night, but until that happens all we see is an unapologetic asshole with a terribly skewed view of how the world actually works.

Beer Pong... there's no good party without it.
It's when the party really gets going that the story does as well, perhaps thanks to the fact that there are dozens of things happening at any given time, from skinny dipping in the pool to the discovery of ecstasy to endless booze-oriented hijinks. As you've probably guessed, the what was supposed to be a fifty-person event turns into much more, with over a thousand guests, midgets, insane stunts, police and assaults, not to mention an insane amount of sex. With Phillips and director Nima Nourizadeh in charge, this was never going to be a PG-rated title, and everyone involved is completely unapologetic when it comes to the adult content. Even as absurd as it all is, give the characters credit for reacting realistically to the madness around them. When a well-placed sign actually works at getting young women to strip out of their tops, the boys' reaction completely sells the scene, as they wonder at the fact that the stunt actually worked.

Oh, that poor animal...
Phillips and the rest of the filmmakers hired no-names to fill out the cast and party-goers present in Project X, and as you can probably guess, that means acting was not a major factor in either the film's creation or your enjoyment. Obviously, I've already discussed the annoyance that is Costa, but the other two boys aren't much better, with Thomas' nervousness and second-guessing causing you to grit your teeth in frustration, and J.B.'s complete lack of personality eliciting the requisite eye-rolling. Only a few actors, including the lovely Kirby Bliss Blanton and young vet Miles Teller (who is quickly rising in well-deserved popularity with roles in Rabbit Hole and the remake of Footloose) doing a ton with their limited contributions. Dax Flame was good when given a chance to contribute, but as the film's most interesting human character it was a shame that he was silently stuck behind the camera almost completely. In the end, the only real character of note is the party itself, like the film as a whole a seething mass of humanity and ethanol that is capable of just about anything and everything.

This is about when shit got unbelievable.
Project X also manages to inject a bit of life into the genre known as "Found Footage." Once and still a haven of cheap horror films, Found Footage has expanded horizons to include science fiction and superhero sub-genres. Now you can add "party films" to that list, as telling the party from such a limited perspective does wonders for making the audience feel as if they are part of the action on the screen. Unlike the forced and unbelievable sources of camera footage in Apollo 18 or last month's Chronicle, the idea that the entire thing is being recorded never feels out of place or unbelievable. 95% of what we see is from one supposed source, and the few limited deviations are both believable and effective without being distracting in the slightest. While it's unlikely we'll ever see another party film like this again, it was nice to see the Found Footage genre being used for good instead of more of the same.

The party only ends when the neighborhood is on fire...
The finale is unfortunately not really any good, as a contrived, dramatic finish was apparently the only way the screenwriters could force the party's conclusion in a timely manner. Combine that with the slow start and what is left is 45 minutes of awesome encapsulated by another 40 of suck. Phillips and Nourizadeh combine to create the ultimate wet dream, and to be honest this film is similar to the Hangover films in that they're obviously geared towards young teens and men. Still, if you can get past the mysogeny, gay-bashing and unbelievablilty of the whole ordeal and simply enjoy the mindless fun and excellent soundtrack of Project X, it can be an entertaining ride that can either help recapture your youth or give you a glimpse of what you missed out on when you were younger. It's the #8 film of 2012.

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