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Dustin Putman

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Project X  (2012)
Zero Stars
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Cast: Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Brady Hender, Nick Nervies, Alexis Knapp, Peter Mackenzie, Caitlin Dulany, Miles Teller, Martin Klebba.
2012 – 88 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drug use, pervasive language and reckless behavior).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 29, 2012.
2010's faux-documentary "The Virginity Hit" justly faded into obscurity before most people realized it existed, but it nevertheless stood out as the nadir within the teen comedy genre. Tawdry, irritating, worrisome, and vacant of virtue, the film was akin to a 90-minute YouTube video featuring a portrait of the modern teenager more frighteningly bleak than most horror movie villains. That it was supposed to be funny or insightful—well, there are no words. Innocent times, those. Two years later, along comes the stylistically and thematically extremely similar "Project X," a disgusting, infuriating splat of diarrhetic excrement that makes "The Virginity Hit" damn near respectful in its view of brain-dead high-schoolers obsessed with screwing their brains out. What was producer Todd Phillips' goal in spearheading this despicable stream of bad messages and intellectual vacuousness for public consumption? Does he want to punish audiences? Does he truthfully think what has ended up in front of the camera has even a sliver of a shred of entertainment value? Does he even care? If 2009's "The Hangover" and its unbearably ill-advised 2011 rehash-cum-sequel "The Hangover Part II" are any indication of Phillips' barometer for quality, probably not.

There is no plot to speak of; only a set-up and the punishment that follows. With the rarely-seen Dax (Dax Flame) manning the camera, the exploits of three friends—Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper), and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown)—are recorded as they prepare to throw a huge blow-out when Thomas' parents go out of town on his 17th birthday. "If I don't fuck a girl with big titties tonight, I'm gonna drown myself!" Costa exclaims, making light of teenage suicide because that's always an issue worth joking about. Ripping off a drug dealer in a sketchy part of town before returning home to set up, the guys quickly see their party turn into an unstoppable beast that draws a crowd of fifteen hundred revelers. In the meantime, Thomas lays waste to his future in about five dozen different ways. His house ultimately goes up in flames. That's okay, though, as long as he's now seen as cool at school.

"Project X" is so inane, so bereft of a point, so left wanting for a thought in its shrunken doll-sized little head that it's difficult to accept as anything other than an elaborate prank. Is this random collage of blatant sexism, hate speech, racial and spiritual insensitivity, and horrible animal abuse really going out into thousands of multiplexes nationwide for those who can sneak into R-rated movies to witness? Opening with the camera picking up a would-be private discussion where a father (Peter Mackenizie) tells his wife (Caitlin Dulany) their son is a loser not because he's a drug addict or a bully or gotten some girl knocked up, but because he hasn't, the rest of the film stays put on the "loser" in question, peer-pressured within a literal inch of his life to be a complete and total scumbag. Sneaking into the bathroom to humiliate Thomas in the shower and dumping a can of trash on Costa's head as he sits in a restroom toilet stall are what serve as hard-hitting character development.

Once the party gets down to business, there is no thickening of the plot to be had. Inexperienced director Nima Nourizadeh, making what hopefully is his first and last feature, and screenwriters Matt Drake and Michael Bacall (Say what? The latter previously wrote 2010's exuberant "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?"), doing nothing at all, get out of the way and let the on-screen, on-the-fly camera documentation do the talking. Everyone drinks to obliteration. Weed is smoked. Ecstasy is dropped because, why, is it 1999 again? A little person is thrown in the oven. One drunk guy pukes all over an SUV's passenger-side window, and the detail is, indeed, graphic. JB jumps from the roof onto the top of a fast-deflating bounce-bounce. Skateboarders crash through glass sliding doors. Cars are driven into the swimming pool. Thomas is caught trying to get it on with sexpot classmate Alexis (Alexis Knapp) by his best girlfriend who really likes him, Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). Marijuana smoke is blown into the face of the family dog, a cute Yorkshire terrier, before he is hooked to helium balloons and starts to float away. By the time the flamethrowers show up, the viewer can only wish they'd be used on every last one of the party guests—and, for that matter, the hosts, too.

"What do you hope to do tonight?" one passerby is asked early on as things heat up. "Get high, fuck bitches," he replies with the relaxed tone of someone greeting another hello. "Project X" is classless, mean-spirited, repugnant, deplorable, off-puttingly sleazy, and thoroughly contemptible. It is also searingly depressing—there isn't a true laugh in sight—as well as worthless on every cinematic level one could name, imagine, or dream up. At no juncture does a character say anything amusing, or thoughtful, or charming. In order to do that, they'd need to be able to formulate thought, and there isn't an idea in any of their shriveling brains. They also, alas, never learn the error of their ways. When Thomas sees Kirby at school a couple days later, he tries to apologize to her. "I destroyed my house, I bankrupted my parents, I ruined my life, and all I really care about is this," he says. Thank goodness his priorities are finally in order.
© 2012 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman