Watching Project X is like being the designated driver at a kick ass college party. You’ll get to watch people having fun, getting stoned, and getting laid, but you’re not going to experience any of that. You’re just going to sit there stone cold sober and un-laid – like an asshole – while constantly checking your watch or cell phone to see how much longer this damn thing is going to continue.
This found footage comedy follows three hapless losers who throw a gigantic rave in a quest to become popular and get laid. We’ve seen these guys before in different physical incarnations. There’s the timid main character who will probably end up being cool after he goes off to college, the horny, extroverted best friend, and the hopeless guy who’s just destined to be a nerd forever. The screenplay never bothers developing them or giving them characteristics beyond worn clichés.
We are never given any reason to care for these guys. We aren’t really shown why they’re friends other than all three of them are dorks. They don’t express any hopes or dreams other than to throw a giant party. They mostly exchange familiar dialogue that vaguely sounds like it was ripped from old Judd Apatow projects. They aren’t unique or interesting. The director clearly doesn’t care about them either, because this movie isn’t about three kids hanging out and getting into trouble, it’s about the party itself.
If anyone arises from this movie to eventually become a star, it will probably be Oliver Cooper, who plays the sex obsessed friend. Most of the laughs in the movie come from him. This kid seems just like I imagine Brett Ratner (proud homophobe and director of Tower Heist) must have been when he was seventeen years old, mostly because he acts, sounds, and looks exactly like Brett Ratner does now minus the beard. Cooper tries a little too hard to be like Jonah Hill in Superbad, but at least he isn’t constantly upstaged by the party raging around him. The other two leads may as well have been wall paper.
The movie’s one innovation comes in the form of the completely passive cameraman. From Man Bites Dog and The Blair Witch Project on, the camera operator in found footage movies tends to be an actual character in the movie. He or she is part of the action, talking to the characters on screen, running and hiding when something dangerous happens, shaking the camera, and so on. Not the guy in this movie.
We learn that the cameraman here is a creepy goth kid from the AV club who says maybe three sentences the entire movie. No one even acknowledges him after the first five minutes. Yet, he’s always where the story needs him to be. Like a creepy sociopath, he films through the cracks in bedroom doors, peers through windows, and hides in bushes. And when the insanity eventually gets cranked up in the final minutes of the movie, he captures the action in his camera with a Zen-like sense of calm. Oh, and there’s a running gag that he may or may not have murdered his parents and disposed of their bodies. Instead of being infuriating, I found the omniscience and stone cold silence of the cameraman hilarious. The gag is a perfect meta-joke, and I’m surprised the director didn’t try to get more mileage out of it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of interest for the intrepid goth to film. Project X is little more than a collection of slow motion montages: montages of people dancing; montages of people making out; montages of people drinking; montages of people just jumping up and down. Yeah, the trailers and commercials promised Superbad meets The Road, but real hedonism and destruction don’t start happening until the last twenty minutes or so of the movie, and by that point it’s hard to care. Big sight gags like a midget running around punching people in the dick or a maniac setting the neighborhood on fire with a flame thrower are far and few between. Instead, we get to see teenagers drink beer and jump up and down in someone’s backyard for the better part of 88 minutes.
These teenage let’s-all-get-laid movies tend to build up to prom or the big party or the orgy, but they’re never just about the party. They’re about the journey to get to the party. Now I know why. Because unless you’re one of the people getting drunk or getting laid, parties are fucking boring.
At one point, the main character looks towards the camera and asks, “Is this big enough to be cool?” No. No, it’s not. To be cool, this movie would need an additional $30 million worth of mayhem and an appearance by Charlie Sheen.