Wanton 'Project X' leaves a bitter aftertaste

Wanton 'Project X' leaves a bitter aftertaste

Be young, be foolish and be deliriously happy. That’s the mantra of ‘Project X’, a raucous comedy about a high school student’s birthday party which descends into chaos when hundreds of kids turn up uninvited and run amok in the teenager’s leafy North Pasadena neighbourhood.

British music video director Nima Nourizadeh captures the carnage through the lenses of assorted video cameras, mobile phones, CCTV and police surveillance helicopters that happen to witness each outrageous incident.

This stylistic conceit, recounting everything in first-person perspective, proves the film’s undoing because to glimpse events behind closed doors, characters are conveniently in the wrong place at the right time, recording equipment at the ready.

Nourizadeh heightens the sweat-drenched realism of the party sequences by intercutting footage taken by hundreds of extras.

A sea of scantily-clad bodies undulates to the booming basslines of the DJ, arms aloft in booze- and drug-fuelled exultation.

Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) decide to throw a party for their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann), whose parents (Peter MacKenzie, Caitlin Dulany) are leaving town to celebrate their anniversary.

The boy’s father reassures his wife that nothing bad will happen: “This is Thomas we’re talking about. He’s not exactly Mr Popular. He’s a loser.”

With the folks out of the way, the boys score drugs from dealer T-Rick (Rick Shapiro), buy copious food and drink and prepare for the first arrivals.

“This place is going to be a madhouse!” cackles Costa.

“Not a madhouse, just a decent sized party,” nervously corrects Thomas.

With pals Everett (Brady Hender) and Tyler (Nick Nervies) manning the door, Thomas tries to relax, enjoying a flirtation with the prettiest girl at school, Alexis (Alexis Knapp), and wrestling with his feelings for childhood sweetheart Kirby (Kirby Bliss Banton).

Meanwhile, goth misfit Dax (Dax Flame) documents every mishap on his handheld video camera.

‘Project X’ is produced by Todd Phillips, who made ‘The Hangover’ films, and that same sense of reckless abandon permeates every beer-stained frame of Nourizadeh’s film.

Mann’s sweetness and naivete contrasts with Cooper’s brash thrill-seeker, whose determination to have fun come what may – “Tonight’s about the girls we never had a shot at. Tonight’s about changing the game” – is a catalyst for disaster.

The flimsy plot provides screenwriters Matt Drake and Michael Bacall with the perfect excuse to flood the screen with bare-chested girls, wanton debauchery and gleeful drug-taking.

Romantic subplots sweeten the pill but a paucity of consequences for the teenagers’ irresponsible behaviour and wilful destruction of property leaves a bitter aftertaste, landing the film in part with a deserved 18 certificate.

“Look at what we did – epic!” whoops Costa as police in riot gear prepare to storm the house.

As usual, he’s exaggerating.

Star Rating: 2½

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