Project X is an out-of-control comedy that follows a group of buds who set out to throw the most epic 17th birthday party ever. The film documents a high school party that gets completely out of control, shot from the perspective of the digital cameras that the kids have with them.
As a filmmaker, Todd Phillips (Due Date, The Hangover series) has shown an increasing interest in exploring the darker, unsettling side of slapstick comedy. (If he ever makes a Three Stooges movie, Curly ain't getting up off of the floor.) The Phillips-produced apocalyptic party movie Project X certainly doesn't skimp on the oh-no-they-didn't comedic gross-outs, but, weirdly enough, it works best at the moments when it seems about to change into a horror flick. If you've ever stressed about a stain that just won't come out, this may be the movie of your nightmares. Shot in a multicamera found-footage style, director Nima Nourizadeh's film follows a nerdy high-schooler (Thomas Mann) whose plans for his 17th-birthday house party go nuclear after his obnoxious friend (Oliver Cooper) assumes control of the guest list. The mayhem shown in the trailer? You haven't seen the half of it. Nourizadeh and his writers (including Scott Pilgrim's Michael Bacall) initially show an impressive command of escalation, as the out-of-control guests just keep piling in and the property damage steadily adds up. Unfortunately, the energy eventually outweighs the inventiveness, with the genuinely frenzied first half replaced by extended music video montages of women ditching their outfits. (Granted, the target audience may not have much of a problem with this development.) As the inspiration flags, the amateurish cast (most notably Cooper, who makes a strong bid for the most unlikable sidekick of the century) and lack of any inkling of redeeming social values do begin to add up, culminating in a finale that doesn't end so much as fizzle out. Still, even if it never quite delivers on its early promises of galactic bad taste, Project X contains enough moments of cranked-to-11 mayhem to satiate even the most ardent party animal, as well as provide a vicarious shuddery thrill for viewers who can vaguely remember their own all-nighters. You'll laugh, you'll squirm, you'll feel an urge to vacuum. --Andrew Wright