Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I caught a screening of Project X earlier in the week, but you should know that I’m very conflicted right now. I intended to put aside Thursday night to write a nice, thoughtful review of the movie... and then I received my copy of Stephen King’s newest Dark Tower novel, a limited edition of the book that hits mass market in April.
Being a good AICNer I told myself, “Self, you’re going to write a review of that teen sex found footage romp that you just kind of liked instead of falling back in with your ka-tet.” To paraphrase Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to ignore the fact that 10 feet from me sits a new, unread Dark Tower story and instead focus on being a good boy and putting some thoughts down on Project X.
So, if you see a random “Roland” or “Oy” slipped in the below it’s only my subconscious trying to drop subtle hints to my waking brain that it may be time to wrap things up and get me some alone time with that book.
Right up front, Project X isn’t mismarketed. That trailer is the movie, but with less titties. So, nobody gets to claim they were duped into seeing a hard R-rated “let’s get fucked up and then get fucked” raunchy teen comedy.
Found footage is like 3D to me. There’s very few movies from each where the device actually added to my movie-going experience. Inevitably I’ll feel found footage movies I like would have been better as real movies (like the recent Chronicle) or I’ll just be flat out turned off by the gimmick.
It’s a testament to Project X that the found footage aspect doesn’t call attention to itself and for the most part people don’t acknowledge the camera. There are testimonials, a few shots of the creepy Columbine-like AV Club guy documenting this epic party thrown by the school nerd and some cut-aways to cell phone cams from those at the party, but the actual drama of the story isn’t constantly interrupted by fourth wall breaking looks and commentary.
The reason the movie works at all is because of Thomas Mann, who is the completely likeable and believable skinny high school outcast. He’s the kind of kid I probably would have hung out with in high school, so it made it easy to identify with him.
With that smart bit of casting we suddenly have a counterbalance to the dumbass quotient most notably represented by the always horny, always loud Costa (Oliver Cooper). If the movie followed this character I would have fought through William Wallace’s army to get the fuck out of the theater, but Costa never needs to be sympathetic. He’s the bad influence with a tiny sliver of love and loyalty for his friends and as such he makes an interesting force of nature in a group with two likeable losers.
The other guy is JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), the chubby one of the group. Usually the fat kid is just there to have a snickers in one hand and a comic book in the other, but they actually use him here a bit more smartly than usual in these kinds of films. He’s the butt of the joke a lot, but he’s also the heart of the group and finds his own way to be cool and even gets a little action.
The only person I felt was horribly miscast was Kirby Bliss Blanton as the just-one-of-the-guys tomboy character. She’s not. Ms. Blanton is too absurdly pretty to be that girl because this is the Duckie role. The archetype means this character has to be the one overlooked for years as the boy focuses his lust at the hot popular girl.
For that to work, you can’t cast someone like Blanton. In any other movie she would have been the hot popular object of lust. They don’t even try to movie-ugly her up with glasses, ponytail and overalls.
She’s a good actress, don’t get me wrong, she’s just too hot for the role.
The only other complaint I have about the movie falls in the last few minutes of the film. One of the charms of this movie is the sense of escalation. A few people at the party turn into a few thousand people. A single naked chick turns into two dozen naked chicks in a bouncy house. Booze leads to hard drugs. The film is always one-upping itself to the point where the final act is fucking crazy.
That’s what makes the movie work, but when there are pretty much no consequences to the insanity of the last act that takes away from the comedic impact. Comedy-wise it’d be like the Bluesmobile being factory perfect when it stops in front of the tax assessor’s office instead of falling apart into 100 pieces.
It sent me out of the screening a little more sour than I thought for that reason. But working on this review and thinking back on what the film does really well has moved me a little more towards mixed-positive than just mixed, which was the feeling I had upon exiting the theater.
The movie goes all out, I’ll give it that much and with mostly smart casting it doesn’t make you hate the ride. If you see people you like making stupid decisions at least you’re invested. When you see douchebags you hate making stupid decisions you just want them to hurry up and OD and get it over with already. (Roland)
There’s enough natural charm in the movie, thanks greatly to young Mr. Mann, to float us through the insanity that comes in the last act. (Eddie, Susannah, Jake). While there are some large flaws, the movie’s funny enough and crazy enough that you can have fun with it if you’re at all inclined to like raunchy teen sex comedies. (Oy) Also, there’s a little person who punches a dozen crotches, so there you go. Automatic positive review there…
But now it’s time for me to find the clearing at the end of the path and remember the face of my father. For sticking out this review with me, I say thankee-sai. Long days and pleasant nights, fellow travelers! Off to Mid-World I go!