"Project X" is "Superbad" on crack.
This tale of three high school losers, who watch their birthday plans go completely out of control, zips past being a cautionary tale of teenage vices to reach the stratosphere of comic absurdity.
Thomas (Thomas Mann) is turning 17. His best friend, the fast-talking Costa (Oliver Cooper), convinces him to turn what is supposed to be a quiet North Pasadena birthday bash into the kind of sex, drugs and videotape event that will make the teens legends. They become legendary when the 1,500-2,000 guests turn the party into an untethered rave where the teens only slow down their consumption of liquor and drugs to get physical. Toss in a maniac with a flamethrower, and this party has a little bit of everything.
The film works because everything goes so far over the top. There's enough drugs and liquor to put a legion of teens in comas. Only attractive young women attend this party and none are shy about disrobing. And all the adults are either mentally unstable or completely clueless. In other words, this is every teen's dream.
Thomas, who in many ways is reminiscent of Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," is the perfect conduit for the audience. He's loaded with the insecurities that make high school a death march for many while holding on to the last grasps of responsibility as the partygoers trash his parents' home.
Costa's the perfect counterbalance, a friend who talks and thinks big without any regard for consequences. This kind of trouble-causing character has been a mainstay of buddy stories from "Leave It To Beaver" to "American Pie."
First-time director Nima Nourizadeh turns to the rapidly fading film gimmick of making the entire movie look like it was shot on a variety of recording devices. Since that style drew big raves with "The Blair Witch Project," it's been used to the point of almost being a cliché. The savior of "Project X" is that the party comes with a designated videographer (Dax Flame) so the footage seems less contrived.
"Project X" works because everything is so big and unbelievable. It's not enough to have a little person hit one guy in the crotch; he pounds his way down a hallway filled with guys.
That's a perfect metaphor for this movie: "Project X" keeps pounding the viewer with so much debauchery that all you can do is laugh.
"Project X," rated R for language, nudity, drug use, adult situations. Stars Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown. Directed by Nima Nourizadeh. Running time: 88 minutes. Grade: B Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.