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Project X
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

To mark his seventeenth birthday, Tom’s (Thomas Mann) parents go away for the weekend and trust him to hold a modest party in their house, for a small group of friends.
“How much trouble could they cause?” wonders his father – Tom’s a loser and has hardly any friends anyway.
From the moment his father tells him not to let anyone touch his Mercedes, the scene is set; Tom’s loud-mouthed best friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) is determined to make this a birthday that no-one will forget.
He ensures that he, Tom and the slightly chubby, bespectacled third wheel of their geeky trio, JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), throw a party that boosts their credibility, respect and popularity among the cool guys who, until now, have picked on them at school, and the hot girls who, until now, have ignored them.
Tom is worried about whether they’ll be able to attract anyone, but by word of mouth, internet postings and radio spots, Costa manages to deliver on his promise, as a handful of close friends become the vast majority of the teenaged population of Pasadena and beyond.
As the numbers grow, the neighbours growl, the police arrive and news helicopters hover overhead.
But these are the least of their troubles as the party escalates way beyond their control – and a local “businessman” resorts to somewhat unorthodox methods to retrieve a borrowed garden gnome.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Project X is told as a “found footage” film, with the local kid who is likely to be described on future news bulletins as someone who “kept himself to himself” filming Costa’s efforts to become the ultimate party planner.
There’s not really much to the plot, so the success or otherwise of the film depends on whether we like Tom, Costa and JB,whether we care how popular they are among their peers and whether we enjoy watching Tom being torn between fear and adulation as the antics spiral out of hand and order gives way to anarchy.
The film-makers have a clear idea of the final destination for our trio of sexually naive protagonists, but the all-important final remaining factor in whether Project X works or not is the journey they take to get there.
In the same way that action movies often involve coming up with increasingly imaginative ways to kill people, this depends on coming up with increasingly imaginative catastrophes to befall the unsuspecting and too trusting Tom as the bold Costa thoughtlessly pushes forward when anyone else would know when enough is enough.
The party is laced with male teenaged fantasy – both sexually and in terms of seeking status.
By putting the monstrous irresponsibility on Costa, the film-makers ensure that Tom elicits at least a degree of sympathy as his house – and his future – start crashing down around him, but rather than doing anything to restore calm, he gets caught up in the moment and relishes hearing hundreds of strangers chanting his name in admiration as they dance drunk around his pool.
This is Tom’s moment – if he has one moment in his whole life, this could well be it – and although he’s aware that the chances of this ending well are slim, it’s a moment he simply has to embrace as he gets swept up in the maelstrom or mirth.
Project X is at once original and predictable – thrilling and dull – as one party scene follows another, with more kids doing more drinking and more dancing, with the occasional party guest throwing themselves naked into the swimming pool, jumping off the roof or shutting a dwarf in the oven. You know, the usual.
The film is noisy, simple, linear and chaotic – there are protagonists, but no good guys – the incidents are all pushed just a little too far for most people to nod in recognition, making it more of a fantasy – or a nightmare – than a true examination of how any of us might handle our own parties getting out of hand.
It’s a film that teenagers might aspire to, but it’s triumphant message will be decried as irresponsible by anyone with teenaged kids, who’ll probably have forgotten that they might once have shared similar aspirations.
While it might pretend to be a study of the need to fit in at all costs, it’s really just an excuse for outright hedonism on the big screen. It’s just a film about a lot of youngsters having a lot of fun, while a small number of youngsters see their promising futures crushed – but conclude that it was probably worth it.

Opens nationwide 2 March 2012

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