Project X

Like pretty much all movies now, the rancid and pointless teen comedy “Project X” pretends to be “found footage,” i.e., it is filmed by the characters themselves. The artistic reason for this choice is presumably to make the story seem more true-to-life. It doesn’t work, though — and thank goodness. If I thought actual teenagers were as idiotic and depraved as the ones in “Project X,” I’d have to give up on life.

The film doesn’t do a good job of portraying real teenage boys, but it is a good example of the kind of wish-fulfillment movie that teenage boys would make if they had the resources. You can imagine a handful of 17-year-old douchebags excitedly spelling out their ideas:

“OK, so the main dudes throw this huge, epic house party, and chicks get naked and fool around with them, and everybody drinks and takes drugs, stuff gets wrecked and set on fire –”

“– and then there are no negative consequences! Like maybe they kind of get in a little bit of trouble, but not really.”

“Right! The main thing is that the quiet kid who threw the party is viewed as a hero now!”

“Even his dad is more impressed than angry!”


“And it will all be really hilarious because everyone will say and do filthy things the whole time, which is the same thing as being really hilarious!”

What’s alarming, and a little sad, is that “Project X” wasn’t made by teenagers but by grown-ups. The writers, Matt Drake and Michael Bacall, have IMDb credits from more than a decade ago, so they’ve gotta be at least in their 30s. Same goes for the director, Nima Nourizadeh. He’s never directed a movie before, but surely he’s at least seen some?

Anyway, the scenario for this dumb exercise in teensploitation is the 17th birthday of Thomas (Thomas Mann), an ordinary and somewhat shy high-schooler whose parents are leaving for the weekend and have said he can have a couple friends over. Thomas’ best friend, Costa (Oliver Cooper), the type of swaggering loudmouth who says “pimp” a lot, invites the entire school. The third member of their group, JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), helps out by being chubby and nerdy, giving Costa someone to make fun of. Oh, and there’s a fourth friend, Dax (Dax Flame), whose sole interest in life is following the protagonists around with a video camera and silently staying out of the way.

The party gets out of hand rapidly. Hundreds of people arrive, including all the hottest chicks and the coolest bros in town. In accordance with signs Costa has posted that say “NAKED GIRLS ONLY,” the girls obligingly remove their bikini tops when getting in the swimming pool. (That’s not really the same as being “naked,” but Costa isn’t a stickler.) People skateboard off the roof. Alcohol and marijuana flow freely, and then a piñata full of Ecstasy tablets livens things up even further. People retire to various rooms of the house to fool around.

That includes Thomas, who has his eye on a foxy brunette named Alexis (Alexis Knapp) but also — what are the odds?? — has a very pretty blond platonic friend, Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton), who might want to be more than platonic. Everything’s coming up Thomas!

The only thing Costa talks about more than girls’ genitals (“p***y”) is his own genitals and the genitals of other boys. You could spend a year working in a urologist’s office and hear fewer references to penises and testicles.

Please understand that I feel very, very old when I say this, but the way every guy in the movie treats girls is unsettling, and so is the way every girl goes along with it. The fact that there are no repercussions for anyone’s behavior only makes it worse, both morally and artistically. Usually a movie about youthful debauchery lets you know, at some point, that while this is all fun to watch on the movie screen, it’s not really OK in real life. “Project X” does no such thing, and in fact does the opposite. And from a movie-going perspective, what’s the point of a story where none of the characters learns anything or grows in any way or changes at all?

The point is to be funny, of course. And believe me, I have no problem with a relentlessly vulgar and “pointless” sexcapade if it makes me laugh! Being funny excuses everything. But apart from a few bits of slapstick and a couple lines of dialogue, “Project X” isn’t funny. It seldom even tries to be, except insofar as kids doing outrageous and naughty things is, by itself, funny. The laughs are supposed to come because, OMG, that car just drove into the swimming pool! OMG, that guy got Tasered! OMG, what a wild party!

No. No, movie. You can’t film a bunch of teens acting like random jackasses, slap a title on it, and call it entertainment. I mean, I guess you can, but you’d be wrong.

D- (1 hr., 28 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity and vulgarity, some sexuality, a lot of topless girls, drug use, all involving teenage characters.)