First time director Nima Nourizadeh’s “Project X,” advertised as having been produced by Todd Phillips, is a fast melting snowball. The idea in this story form is that the plot will roll downhill and, as succeeding events adhere to it, will get bigger and bigger and funnier and funnier.
This doesn’t work here. We watch three teenaged losers promote (using electronic media) a birthday party at the home of one of them, Thomas. His parents will be out of town for the weekend. The kids hire a disc jockey to play rap numbers out by Thomas’s backyard pool. They rent an inflated “bouncy house” and toss inflated sex dolls into the pool.
They also get lots and lots of alcohol and visit a creepy gun nut from whom they get drugs, including ecstasy. When they steal his garden gnome, he gets angry with them. He is the only surprising element in the movie. And the only character capable of getting a real laugh.
Lots of kids show up for the party. Some recent alums of their high school do, too. Even one middle-aged neighbor shows up. Most of the attendees seem to be pretty girls, several of whom strip to their panties to go into the pool. There is dancing. There are announcements. There are a couple of “golden god” jumps from the roof into the bouncy house. Some attendees are shown involved in sex acts.
Eventually there are fifteen hundred people in the party and some vandalism starts, some of it stuff like swinging on a chandelier until it breaks loose and some of it more like the spray painting of a mural on the garage. Dad’s car ends up in the pool.
The police arrive and some people throw bottles at them. Then the drug dealer arrives, sweeping the neighborhood with a flame thrower.
Then there is a dragging denouement. There are three interesting events in it. One is that Dad gives evidence of having a grudging admiration for his son’s party-giving abilities. The whole movie is about the gloriousness of being able to have a birthday and to buy beer in celebration. I’m not sure I get this. Who couldn’t do what Thomas and his friends become famous for having done?
The second interesting thing in the falling action is that Thomas makes up with his girlfriend. She was already the best-looking girl at the party. But the purpose of having the party was for the three boys to make an impression on schoolmates and get a few sexual chances with girls. I don’t understand Thomas’s motivations given the casting. He should have simply had his regular girl over to the house while his parents were gone.
Then, third, the movie ends listing the legal charges brought against the trio of boys. Actually all they are guilty of is encouraging the congregation of kids. This is where the movie’s pitch—that the boys are heroes for having thrown such an “epic” party—seems weakest. Heck, they aren’t even all charged with felonies.
“Project X” can’t seem to decide if it thinks the party was a good thing or a bad thing. The movie likes its own colorful action. But it seems sorry about the property damage. Thomas and his pals are heroes. But they shouldn’t have done what they did.
The party itself is sort of fun to look at. Too bad about the music. The moviemakers could have gotten almost as much useful footage by attending a real party somewhere. And in thinking that, I was reminded of the rapper who was arrested at a local fraternity party in the last couple of years, one the police were trying to shut down before 10 o’clock, if memory serves. Somehow that seems more unreal than the events in the “epic” “Project X” party.