Let’s be blunt: Project X is maybe the worst film of the year so far. It opens on a sweater-vested douchebag clutching his crotch, singing the lyrics to “Hey, We Want Some Pussy” before boasting to camera about how wet his dick is going to get that night; any doubts you might have had about the the tone of the movie are quickly quashed. Like an unfunny Superbad, it takes the geeky-virgins-attempt-to-get-laid-at-a-party template of time immemorial, and slaps on a zeitgeisty ‘found footage’ format, a mould which has no real value. Neither, really, does the film itself.
Project X was unsurprisingly produced by The Hangover director Todd Phillips, no stranger to obnoxious, high-concept, low-integrity party movies, and rather more surprisingly co-written by Michael Bacall, who did a far better job in authentically depicting young people as co-writer on Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street. It’s since emerged that Project X was conceived during Bacall’s time off from Pilgrim, and this makes sense – it seems like an afterthought, a film forged on the extreme fringes of credulity and morality.
Amid copious sequences of frenetically edited tits-’n’-puke party montages lies the most basic of stories: three friends throw a party. Said party gets insanely out hand. That’s about as far as any plot goes, really. Like most cinematic parties, it is told from the horny male’s perspective; the unfortunate females must all be relegated to promiscuous oiled-up bikini roles, zero-dimensional supporting characters willing to strip off whatever little clothing they’re wearing and jump into the pool at the mere sight of a “naked girls only” sign. (That sign actually appears in the film, and the girls actually oblige.)
You don’t have to be the world’s biggest prude or a Germaine Greer-level feminist to be offended by Project X. It is a film with a severely de-magnetised moral compass. The only character any reasonable human could sympathise with is a young father living opposite who politely requests the party ends as his newborn baby is being kept awake at midnight. Naturally, he is the elected antagonist, booed off the steps of his neighbour’s house like a pantomime villain – though not before being tased by a teenage security guard.
Some sympathy must also go to the hapless parents whose house is mercilessly destroyed – set on fire, in fact – by thoughtless morons; for a film with a narrow target audience of young people, it’s astonishing how old it makes you feel. The filmmakers clearly hope you cheer on the partygoers – instead you will find yourself yelling at the screen “keep the noise down, you kids!”
But putting aside the pointless found-footage format, the toxic misogyny, the lack of any structure or narrative and the absence of even remotely likeable characters, it is quite simply not funny. In 88 minutes, I did not so much as raise a smile. For a comedy, this is inexcusable. The kindest thing you could say about Project X is that the cinematography is quite good. But then why be kind about something so mean-spirited?