So much potential is built in the first 15 or 20 minutes, in which mild-manner high school loser Thomas (Thomas Mann, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) is goaded into hosting a party while his parents are away. The goal, per obnoxious buddy Costa (newcomer Oliver Cooper), is for the rest of the student body to “recognize we’re large-scale ballers.”
A few friends over swells to “50 people max,” which explodes into a full-scale riot (a unique extra on the Blu-ray estimates damages for everything from a new Oxford shirt to testicle replacement surgery). And that’s all there is to it — no character growth, no lessons learned.
It’s as if the party scene in Superbad were stretched to feature-length, stripped of both heart and humor, and the Jonah Hill role were split into two parts, with the mouth becoming Costa and the girth becoming J.B. (newcomer Jonathan Daniel Brown).
This Costa character is so abhorrent and cruel to these two “friends” that, in reality, he wouldn’t have any; as is, I found him so loathsome in his transparent misogyny, I didn’t want to spend any time with him. He’s American Pie‘s Stifler, minus the cluelessness, so naturally, he’s doomed to be a hero to an entire generation of disrespectful, entitled pricks for whom “suck my dick” and its variants are not just everyday vernacular, but the height of biting wit.
I suppose Project X qualifies as intermittently entertaining, although I didn’t laugh a single time — a dreadful count for a comedy. Situations are setup and never paid off; for example, Thomas’ mother (Caitlin Dulany, Maniac Cop 3) is worried about leaving her 17-year-old boy home alone, but once she does, we never get the pleasure of seeing her reaction at the mind-boggling chaos that exploded in her absence. We’re denied the opportunity to witness her examine that crack in the Fabergé egg, to reference a similarly themed teen movie that pulled off the party with hilarity, emotion, resonance and class: 1983’s brilliant Risky Business.
Certainly these bits exist, but you won’t find them among the deleted scenes — there aren’t any. The Blu-ray includes both the theatrical version and an extended cut of just a few minutes more, but the addition of Simon Rex (Scary Movie 3) as a rapper is hardly a bonus. Even producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover Part II) calls Project X “more crazy than it is funny,” in the “Declassified” five-minute featurette, and he’s dead-on.
It’s hard to determine which element of the misbegotten movie is more disturbing: its treatment of women as pure slabs of meat, or the message it sends that committing mass-scale destruction and other felonies is worth it for the reward of popularity.
May I choose both? —Rod Lott