Three high schoolers get a bigger popularity boost than they bargained for when their birthday party turns into an absolute riot. The team behind The Hangover lets another laddish escapade get somewhat out of hand with this debauched tale of sex, drugs and invitations gone viral. A bit like rising star Thomas Mann's previous movie, It's Kind Of A Funny Story...
Jonathan Daniel Brown
It's some kind of achievement to conjure nostalgia for the rich character development of Bachelor Party, but teensploitation shock-com Project X - the latest post mortem on modern masculinity from fratboy-godhead producer Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover and Old School) - is more than up to the task.
Teenagers throw a wild party. That's the logline, and - indeed - the entirety of the utterly spoiler-proof plot of Project X.
Shoehorned in between a couple of sets of credits is a series of fitfully amusing set-pieces that want very badly to shock and offend, but more often than not grate: a child is punched in the face; a sweater-vested nerd drops the N-bomb; copious drugs are consumed, consequence-free; a dog is tied to a bunch of helium balloons; and - deep, disappointed sigh - a dwarf is picked up and thrown in an oven.
But for a film so hellbent on asserting its edgy credentials, the material itself is thematically conservative, with such creaky conventions as 'Gormless hero has eyes for the popular girl in school, but his beautiful female friend from childhood has been there the whole time right in front of him' and 'crass best friend plays devil-on-the-shoulder and encourages play-it-safe protagonist to seize the day' trotted out limply and shamelessly.
The 'found footage' angle (surely some sort of official moratorium has been declared by now?) isn't committed to wholeheartedly; in fact, the film works better when it's ignored.
If anything, Project X feels deeply cynical - cooked up in the kind of boardroom where 1% studio execs troll Tumblr pages for teenspeak, and 'beer advert' is the aesthetic to aspire to (it's no coincidence that first-time director Nima Nourizadeh made his name in the advertising world with a spot for Adidas called 'House Party').
As the teens' festivities spiral out of control, there's an undeniably infectious anarchy to the proceedings.
But it's not long before the utter relentlessness of the whole thing becomes exhausting (with some of the very talented Phillips' more frustrating hallmarks - namely sexism and casual homophobia - particularly wearying).
Real teens will enjoy the wish fulfillment shenanigans, parade of barely-legal toplessness, and wall-to-wall pop-rap soundtrack. For post-pubescents, however, Project X will only inspire a chorus of guttural "get off my lawn"s.