Movie Review: Project X

(center, l to r) Oliver Cooper, Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Project X: as in X-citing? X-rated? Uh, no, not really. How about X-crement? Bingo.

There’s a rabid commercial cynicism driving this project that’s far more revolting than any of the grosser moments depicted in this You-Tubeian adolescent bacchanalia. Trumpeted on the poster’s artwork is the one selling point that the studio hopes will appeal to everyone who laughed themselves silly with the wonderfully clever, ultimately $277 million hit comedy: “From Producer Todd Phillips, The Director of THE HANGOVER”

Note: This isn’t some witty Hangover clone tailored for a slightly younger crowd. Nor is it some product from a twenty-something, cutting-edge filmmaker trying to create art. Brought to you by producer (not director) Phillips, combining forces with multi-millionaire schlockmeister producer Joel Silver, this garbage throws amateurs in front and behind the camera, without any semblance of a story, and tries to pawn it off as something that reflects the spirit of fun, wild teens getting crazy at the best party ever. Bullshit. This is sheer manipulation, targeting the high school demographic to think that this film speaks for them … as Phillips and Silver laugh all the way to the bank.

Echoing the faux-realism of employing the performers’ names, a la 2010′s pallid The Virginity Hit, Project X has a plot – if you want to call it that – consisting of two acts: 1. a loser trio of high school seniors plan a party; and 2. the party happens, eventually growing out of control.

Utilizing the supposed single-operator shaky cam, as yet one more representative of the “POV film” genre that’s seemingly growing as prevalent as iPhone users, this film is an 88-minute slog, jerkily shot by the trio’s friend Dax (Dax Flame, hey, a “real-life” videographer). But the conceit isn’t possible, not if Dax is simultaneously photographing topless babes under water, guys on the rooftop, and scenes from inside the neighbor’s dark closet across the street. Unless he’s some sort of superhero, an Omni-LensMan, who can shoot everyone and everywhere all over the world! Wave to Dax, go ahead – he’s probably shooting you right now. Maybe we’ll see him in a new Marvel movie arriving at your multiplex this very summer …

In actuality, the film used eight different camera systems, as well as scattering a dozen Flip cameras to the extras on set so that they could capture even more of the mayhem. Sure, it’s a fake single cam, no more real than the setting in a fictional high-end Los Angeles suburb called “North Pasadena.” But if it is a narrative, why not have a real script? With a plot? Even with a few good jokes … particularly since this is billed as a comedy?

(l to r) Jonathan Daniel Brown as JB, Thomas Mann as Thomas, Oliver Cooper as Costa

To be fair, a few of the amateurs deliver. Protagonist Thomas (Thomas Mann) manages to portray a sweet vulnerability, deftly juggling his desire to fit in among his peers against a growing concern that his parents’ home may not make it through the night. Bashful, pudgy JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), a dead ringer for a young Josh Gad, believably depicts a fellow who hasn’t a clue as to how to behave like a hot young stud in a world of Girls Gone Wild. But Oliver Cooper’s stereotypic smart aleck Costa grates on our every last nerve, a young actor who’s so busy blaring the fact that he’s funny … that he’s not.

The numbskull plot points abound. How is it that the trio is concerned about only one neighbor calling the police when the party’s decibel levels grow to that of a Middle Eastern war zone? Or the fact that the father wonders how big the party was … as if it weren’t broadcast on television stations all over the Southland? And why would Costa rob his own drug dealer, the guy with the best weed in L.A.? Rob your parents, your school, your grandma … but your pot connection? Duuuude!

Producer Phillips states: “It’s not really a straight out comedy, quite honestly. It’s really just a movie about a few bad decisions and things spiraling out of control…and that’s always fun to document.” Maybe fun for Mr. Phillips. But for the unfortunate audience? Not so much.

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Rating on a scale of 5 X-Viles: 1

Release date: March 2, 2012
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
Written by: Matt Drake and Michael Bacall
Cast: Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Dax Flame
Rating: R
Running Time: 88 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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