CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PROJECT X (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A wild party on the front yard of a suburban home. Once more, MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are conspicuously noticeable, as they are the only people there over the age of 25. The partygoers keep looking at them strangely, as if they’re from another planet.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I can’t believe we came back to this party.
L.L. SOARES: What’s the matter? Don’t you like parties?
MA: I love parties, but it would have been nice to set up shop for this review at a different locale. I mean, we were just here for our MARCH COMING ATTRACTIONS column.
LS: What a grump! We’re here because we’re reviewing PROJECT X (2012), the new comedy about a party, so what better location is there than a party? Goober!
(MA bumps into sign which reads, “Naked Girls Only in the Pool.” A chubby kid with glasses is reading the sign looking confused.)
CHUBBY KID: So, why can’t there be naked girls somewhere else? Why do they only have to be in the pool?
MA (rolls eyes): That’s not what the sign means. It means that if you’re a girl, and you want to go into the pool, you have to take your clothes off. Get it?
CHUBBY KID (scratching head): I’m not a girl. Can I still go into the pool? Do I have to take off my clo—.
LS: NO! Look, kid, why don’t you scram. Go find yourself a cookie or something.
CHUBBY KID: There’s cookies here?
LS: Yeah, that way. (Kicks kid in butt sending him across lawn.)
MA: That wasn’t very nice.
LS: I’m not the nice one, remember? (Starts walking away).
MA: Where are you going?
LS: Where do you think? To the pool! You can start the review.
MA: Hey, wait a minute! That’s—- actually not such a bad idea. I can review this movie without L.L. bugging me with his thoughts on the film.
(LS suddenly returns.)
LS: I heard that. The pool can wait.
MA: I thought so. (winks at camera). Today we’re reviewing PROJECT X (2012), a comedy about three high school seniors who decide to throw the ultimate party so they can become more popular at school.
The main character, Thomas (Thomas Mann), is celebrating his birthday, and it just so happens that his parents are away for the weekend celebrating their anniversary, and so he has the house to himself.
LS: Nice parents, leaving their kid alone on his birthday. Hey – actually that is nice. They’re pretty much urging him to go wild in their absence.
MA: His two best friends, Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to throw him a birthday party, but they’re not the most popular kids at school, and so Thomas fears that no one will come. Costa promises him that this won’t be the case, as he’ll see to it that the bash will be a success.
Costa makes good on his promise, as he utilizes the Internet and even the radio to bring in guests from all over, and soon there are literally hundreds of people in attendance. We’re seeing all this because a fourth friend, Dax (Dax Flame) is filming it all for them so they’ll have a record of this special night.
Eventually, the party spirals out of control, and what started as a fun time for the teens ends up as a nightmare. And that’s about it in terms of story for this one folks. It’s not exactly a thought-provoking script. We’re not talking Woody Allen here.
LS: Yep, that’s about it in a nutshell. Crazy party, documentary-style shooting. Period. I wish I had more to add about the plot, but I don’t.
MA: PROJECT X is a horribly unfunny movie that starts off slowly and then gets a little bit better before it completely falls apart. It’s a complete waste of time.
LS: Oh, I didn’t think it was that bad.
MA: Come on! I mean, the party footage is fun, but too bad this movie isn’t a documentary. It’s a comedy, and as such, it’s a complete fail because it forgot the simple notion that it was supposed to be funny!
The first third of the movie is painfully slow as we follow our three teens and their cameraman around school, town, and Thomas’ home as they prepare for the party. Yawn!
LS: It’s called exposition, and it means we get to know these characters before the ball drops. I didn’t think it was that slow. And I like the scenes where they visit the crazy drug dealer guy. Who didn’t see the secret of the garden gnome a mile away, by the way?!!
MA: But it’s dull exposition, and let me just say something about the scene with the crazy drug dealer guy. See, I found that scene humorous, and I knew it was setting things up for a later meeting with the guy, but this later meeting is horribly unfunny when it had the potential to be hilarious.
It’s also hard to like a movie when one of the main characters is extremely annoying. I couldn’t stomach Costa (Oliver Cooper). He’s supposed to be the “cool” one, the buddy who’s going to make his best friend Thomas’ birthday party a success. He’s always saying things like “Don’t worry about it. I can take care of it.” And of course, ultimately he can’t. Some friend! And that’s the major problem with Costa. I couldn’t imagine wanting to be friends with this guy, let alone watch an entire 90 minute movie about him.
This was a movie that at 88 minutes long felt much longer than it was.
LS: Oh yeah, Costa is a complete asshole. It’s hard to take the guy at first, but slowly, he becomes more tolerable. I won’t go so far as to say he becomes likable, because I don’t think I ever liked him, but at least I didn’t sit there thinking “I hate this kid,” through the whole movie. He’s just part of the story.
MA: I sat there thinking “I hate this kid.”
Thomas Mann is likeable in the lead as Thomas. I mean, Thomas is a nice guy, and he’s easy to like, but he’s the straight man of the group. He’s not funny, and so he adds nothing to the comedy.
LS: Thomas is likable enough, but he’s a wimp. Then again, I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone, not even him. This big party is his chance to shine, and in a lot of ways, he does. He is a sympathetic character, But he’s no Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise’s character in RISKY BUSINESS.)
MA: I liked Jonathan Daniel Brown as JB, the “fat kid” of the group. I thought his scenes were refreshingly sharp and honest, and as a result, humorous, but he’s not in the movie as much as Thomas and—cringe! —Costa.
LS: Yeah, JB is okay. Once again, not a character who steals the show, but he serves the story.
MA: Dax, the cameraman, is a complete waste of a character. He’s incredibly underutilized. Compared to the cameramen in CLOVERFIELD (2008), THE LAST EXORCISM (2010), and CHRONICLE (2012), Dax is embarrassingly devoid of personality.
LS: I kinda like Dax. We see him just once in the course of the movie, looking into a mirror, and he’s like some Goth AV nerd. And he does have a personality, in the way he shoots things, and he does interact with the other characters. He’s not a dynamic force in this film by any means, but I didn’t think he was a waste. I did want to know more about him, though.
MA: Yes, this is another of those documentary-style movies that we’re seeing more and more of these days. This style seems to work best in horror movies. I didn’t think it added anything to PROJECT X.
CAMERAMAN: Smile for the camera.
LS: Get that camera out of my face! We’re working here!
(Off camera, there is an explosion, followed by screams of “Oh my God! Oh my God!” The camera whirls around to reveal first a fireball in the sky, followed by a giant roaring monster stomping on houses. Some partygoers flee into the street.)
MA: Hey! Put the camera back on me. Thanks. See, that’s what I’m talking about. This kind of camera work is great in a horror movie, but in a comedy, (points to party, where we see people drinking, dancing, and being crazy) not so much. The antics are just as insane with or without the documentary-style footage. Okay, now you can go run home to your mommy.
(CAMERAMAN screams and runs away.)
LS: What a wimp! Afraid of giant carnivorous monster! (calls out to CAMERAMAN) Show some backbone!
MA: After all, most likely that creature is coming here for the free beer.
Anyway, back to PROJECT X.
Kirby Bliss Blanton is cute as Kirby, the girl who Thomas has been friends with for years. He’d like to be more than friends with her. Even this storyline is a dud, because she wants the same thing, and so there’s very little tension or drama here.
LS: Yeah, my take on her early on was “Hey, this is yet another case where the lead guy has a friend who’s a hot girl but who he sees more as a sister than a friend. Why doesn’t he hook up with her?” There are always characters like that in these kinds of movies. And Thomas has the same thought I did, because he does let her know he wants to be more than just friends—except he does it way too early in the movie and dissolves any kind of sexual tension much too soon. It wasn’t handled very well. There’s also another popular girl that Thomas has a thing for—the uberhot Alexis (Alexis Knapp), the girl he really threw the party for—and things heat up between her and Thomas at one point, creating a triangle. Except, this has been done so many times before, it just didn’t interest me all that much.
PROJECT X is like a Frankenstein Monster when it comes to its influences. Everything from RISKY BUSINESS (1983) and SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984) and countless 80s teen sex comedies to more recent fare like the AMERICAN PIE movies (the first one came out in 1999), right up to SUPERBAD (2007). There is nothing in this movie that you haven’t seen done before, better, except for maybe the guy with the flamethrower. The thing is, I hate to say this, the documentary-style filming did bring something fresh to the material. And it’s very self-aware, bringing in the Internet and the local news and even the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
It also earns its R-rating. A lot of R-rated movies these days just involve a little swearing or something. This one has nudity and lots of bad behavior, which is refreshing. Not nearly enough nudity, from my point of view, but at least it makes the effort. And I enjoyed some of the crazy “blink and you missed it” party moments almost more than the story of the three kids.
Despite how derivative it is, I did find myself enjoying the ride. I just didn’t care all that much when it was over.
MA: Once the party starts, the movie picks up a bit because the craziness that ensues at the party is entertaining, but the problem is, it’s never overly funny. The situations are amusing because people do crazy things at parties, but it lacks creativity and cleverness in setting up its comedic situations. THE HANGOVER, this movie is not. By the time the story does go over the top, the fun stops because the teens realize the party is out of control and people are getting hurt. So much for the good times!
It also bugged me that people are drinking alcohol in quantities to rival Niagara Falls, yet no one’s sick. That’s not how it works, folks!
LS: Sure people got sick. There are scenes where people are puking. What did you want, hundreds of scenes like that?
MA: We saw a brief snippet here and there, but none of the leads got sick. Not that I wanted to see them puking their guts out, but it smacks of false storytelling when there’s not even a passing reference to their feeling sick the next day. They’re functioning like they drank a couple of sodas.
And sure, there are some funny bits, but there are way too few of them to make this movie worth it. I did, truth be told, like the scenes with the midget, but even these I expected to be funnier.
LS: Dude, that’s not cool. They don’t like being called midgets. You’re supposed to say he’s a “little person.”
MA: Fine, I liked the scenes with the “little person,” although they called him a midget in the movie.
I also liked the scenes with the two young security guards, Everett (Brady Hender) and Tyler (Nick Nervies), two twelve year-olds Costa hires to provide security at the party, but their shtick grows old fast, and by the end of the movie they’re no longer comical.
LS: Those kids were funny at first, but they did grow tiresome as the movie went on.
MA: I laughed during the scene where a neighbor Rob (Rob Evors) tries to shut the party down, but I had seen this scene already in the preview. Speaking of which, the trailer to this movie was much funnier than the movie itself.
LS: Yeah, the taser scene is ruined by the trailer. But it’s still funny.
MA: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall wrote the uninspired screenplay which is simply not creative enough to compare to films like THE HANGOVER movies. This surprised me, because Bacall also wrote the screenplay for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010), a film that is very creative. PILGRIM is a much better movie than PROJECT X.
LS: PROJECT X is downright pitiful compared to SCOTT PILGRIM and THE HANGOVER movies. It’s clear that HANGOVER director Todd Phillips just produced this one, because if he directed it, it would have been a lot better. But, for what it was, I didn’t mind it.
MA: I found PROJECT X to be a complete waste of time, an unfunny movie that seems to think drinking, drug use, sex, and wildness equals comedy, but it doesn’t. Had all these things been in a funny movie, then we’d be having a different conversation right now. But that’s not the case.
Skip this movie. Go to a real party instead.
I give PROJECT X one knife.
LS: I agree with you that you’re better off going to a real party. Hell, I’ll even bring the flame thrower. But I liked this one a little better than you did. It’s not a must-see movie, but it might be worth a rental when it comes out on DVD later. I give it two knives.
MA: Wow, you liked it twice as much as I did.
LS: Yep. Would have got a half a knife more if Kirby got naked. And Thomas’s mom.
MA: This is getting a little too creepy.
KID IN BACKGROUND: Who wants to play beer pong?
LS: We’re done now, right?
MA: Well, while L.L.’s off to play drinking games, I’ll say so long for both of us. (bumps into the “Naked Girls Only in the Pool” sign again.)
COLLEGE GIRL( also reading sign): Cool! Which way to the pool!
MA: I believe it’s over— well, let me show you the way. Follow me. (To camera) Hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. See you all next time!
COLLEGE GIRL: To the pool!
MA: To the pool! Life is good.
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives PROJECT X ~one knife!
LL Soares gives PROJECT X ~two knives.