It seems as though comedies today must go to greater and greater lengths to coax their audiences to laugh. This is something The Hangover realized when not a laugh was had without a monkey, a tiger, Mike Tyson or a deranged Chinese man behind it all. Hangover director Todd Phillips, though, doesn’t seem to know the limits of outrage as comedy—something omnipresent in the sequel to his flagship movie. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Phillips is the producer behind freshman director Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X.
The tale is a spittoon of a movie born from the experiences and stories of high school parties heaped together by “the Todd” himself, Nourizadeh and producer Alex Heineman—though the writer who dutifully collated these stories, Michael Bacall, was a self-described “nerd in high school,” learning the dastardly ways of the drunken rave just as freshly as the movie’s main character, Thomas (Thomas Mann).
Mann’s anal-retentive obedience to his parents and obsession over girls he can never have, though, is perhaps Bacall’s personal contribution to the narrative which is not much considering the length of the movie is overwrought with booty shots (that is, the camera’s often trained on dancing girls) blood-shot eyes staring into the camera, operated by the silent Dax (Dax Flame), as people bounce and sway to Lil Jon’s “Get Outta Your Mind”. The usual sequence will include a slow-motion shot of people running and jumping toward the pool, followed by quick-cut montages of bongs, red cups and glass bottles. In the background, one might catch a glimpse of hoodlums smashing a car, setting off fireworks or doing Jell-O Shots.
But the real question you might be asking yourself is: Why am I seeing all of this? To which the writer hopes you know by now, from the 15 minutes of patchwork story-line, is that it’s Thomas’ 17th birthday, an occasion his obnoxious friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) has deemed worthy of “the craziest party of all time. Something no one will forget. We’ll be kings after this!” So, along with Dax, the trio set about spreading the word to people who don’t even know the names of our motley crew, buying alcohol and stealing drugs from the schizophrenic T-Rick (Rick Shapiro). The rest is history. Seriously, the film begins with an “apology” to the citizens of North Pasadena. However, it’s all noticeably fictional; the found-footage can’t even convince you otherwise.
Project X isn’t necessarily a bad movie, and at times it’s even charming (especially when fights turn into pow-wows, and everyone learns to love one another). What makes the movie, penned by the very same brilliant writer of Scott Pilgrim and the much funnier 21 Jump Street, so astonishingly disappointing is just how boring it is. I found myself wanting to like the movie just to see a bunch of kids having fun, enjoying themselves and ultimately reveling in the “best years of their lives,” but then a wave of envy passes over you followed by an unsuspected sensation of sleepiness. There is even a hint of sadness hidden in this whirlwind of hyperactivity: the sinking of the Mercedes SLK in the swimming pool. Following this sadness is the sinking feeling that one is running a marathon, just counting down the miles until the finish line, as Project X forces us to stomach a contrived romance between Thomas and his life-long friend, Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton).
It is, after all, a high school story. Fittingly, they all live happily ever after. Score: 4/10.