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Movie review: 'Project X'

This film about an over-the-top high school party has characters that are too predictable and an attitude that's unseemly.

March 02, 2012|By Robert Abele, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Since the keys to Hollywood were left to teenagers years ago, an empty destructo-comedy like "Project X" — about unsupervised suburban youths throwing the ultimate home-wrecking hellraiser of a party — seemed inevitable as a movie metaphor for a pubescent demographic run rampant.

Produced by filmdom's kingpin of no-no-not-that comedy, Todd Phillips ("The Hangover" and its sequel), "Project X" whipped up a well-marketed frenzy in recent months over its teaser trailers that suggested audiences couldn't imagine how irresponsibly bonkers a high school bash could get. But is it really a spoiler to reveal such decadent selling points as excessive drinking, bared breasts, ogled bottoms, recreational drug use, injurious stunts and the nonsanctioned use of Daddy's Benz?

Even the late arrival of a flamethrower doesn't have the shock value the filmmakers think it does, because it comes courtesy of a whack-job character introduced in the first act, whom any self-respecting connoisseur of things-going-wrong movies — especially ones by Mr. Phillips — knows was destined for a reappearance.

In fact, the only way to describe this movie's trio of party-throwing protagonists is numbingly predictable, as if writers Michael Bacall and Matt Drake had "Superbad" on a loop in the background: There's quiet student Thomas (Thomas Mann) looking to get laid; his obnoxiously crude bestie Costa (Oliver Cooper) looking to get laid; and nerdy, overweight third wheel JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), looking to get laid.

Apart from the stated desire that their debauched-till-dawn wingding will make them noticed at school, there's absolutely no other coloring to their characters. We're forced to imagine what the cute blond in tow (Kirby Bliss Blanton) sees in the mostly personality-less Thomas, apart from someone willing to let strangers destroy his parents' well-appointed Pasadena home. Cooper's misogynistic Costa, meanwhile, rips off Jonah Hill's shtick, minus the timing, sad sack appeal and motormouth grace.

Then there's the stunningly unoriginal framework of it all being documented by a voyeuristic goth with a camera (Dax Flame). Director Nima Nourizadeh may come from commercials, but he can't sell the entertainment merits of this framing device's umpteenth usage.

Ultimately, "Project X" bears a cravenly piggish attitude toward rewarding socially unacceptable behavior that feels unseemly rather than exciting, so-what rather than so-funny and obvious instead of new.

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