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3 high school seniors throw a birthday party to make a name for themselves. As the night progresses, things spiral out of control as word of the party spreads.
For more about Project X and the Project X Blu-ray release, see Project X Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Alexis Knapp
Director: Nima Nourizadeh
» See full cast & crew
Project X Blu-ray Review
Lord of the Flies, The Todd Phillips Edition
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 12, 2012
Morally vapid. I never thought the day would come that I would mount my soapbox, clear my throat, and shout those two words into a review, but it seems that day has come. Morally vapid, a label I wouldn't even slap on a Jackass flick. I'm tempted to go as far as to call producer Todd Phillips and director Nima Nourizadeh's Project X a wasteland; an ugly, empty, barren desert prowled by vicious, self-destructive teenagers consuming anything and everything that'll bring them to the brink of death, pat them on the head, and set them free to drink, smoke and throw away another day. Teens unfamiliar with things like respect, responsibility, integrity and social sobriety will no doubt have a blast with Phillips and Nourizadeh's frontal assault on good taste. Adults who find humor in underage drinking and senior high anarchy may even get a sick kick out of the mean-spirited madness. Other filmfans? If you found some redeeming or comedic value in Project X, by all means, please share it with the rest of the class. I'd very much be interested in reading a spirited defense. Everyone else? Feel free to join me on my soapbox. There's plenty of room.
The events portrayed in this film are fictional, and all stunts were performed by actors in controlled environments. No one should attempt to recreate or re-enact any of the scenes, stunts, or general activities portrayed in the film.
Project X plumbs deviant depths even Superbad refused to touch, and does so with hyper-staged, faux-reckless abandon. High schoolers Costa and J.B. (casting call finds Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown) aren't as popular as they feel they deserve to be and decide to use their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann) and his birthday as a means to an oh-so-selfish end. With Thomas' parents heading out of town, Costa and J.B. coax the poor kid into throwing a house party to end all house parties. Cue an ill-advised Craigslist ad, alcohol and hard liquor en masse, drug deals, sexual conquests, criminal unruliness, house wrecking, ecstasy abuse, news coverage, a flame thrower, police intervention, mobilized SWAT teams and... a strong reprimand for the party planners. And -- spoiler alert -- by strong reprimand I mean Thomas is congratulated by his father (yep, you read that right), the boys become ridiculously popular at school, the loves of their lives fawn over them, and the teens are acquitted of all wrong-doing. It isn't just gratuitous high school wish fulfillment, it's wildly indulgent and borderline reprehensible, if I can say as much without turning this into a sermon.
I'd be the first to defend Project X if its teens were likable, funny or worth rooting for in the slightest. But aside from Thomas, whose reluctance earns the teen-turned-all-too-willing-accomplice a few points early on, there isn't a remotely appealing high schooler to be found. Just awful kids destined to become awful adults, partying under the guise of popularity but really just tapping into their basest natures. This isn't teens being irresponsible, it's teens being egomaniacal, barbaric and downright disgraceful. And where's the humor in that? I fail to see it. Normally I'd be the first to build a "one man's junk is another man's treasure" escape hatch into a review of such a divisive, to some offensive comedy, but every now and then, junk is just junk. Too harsh? Escapism can be great fun. Think of any raunchy teen cult-favorite: Porky's, Revenge of the Nerds, House Party, Zapped, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Superbad, even American Pie. Love 'em or hate 'em, they all feature characters that offer something to the audience; something that keeps us glued to the screen no matter what mistakes or misdeeds transpire. Project X ignores this fundamental, going for the pubescent jugular with increasingly delinquent chaos perpetrated to push boundaries and little more.
If I sound like an old man, my apologies. If I sound out of touch, judgmental or unsettled, further apologies. Project X doesn't cross any lines to illuminate said lines, to manipulate genre conventions, to satirize teenage life, or to provide commentary on the modern teen experience. It crosses lines, skirts reason and tosses consequence to the wind for one reason and one reason alone: to sell tickets to teens and young adults jonesing for 80-minutes of carefree depravity and no-consequence debauchery. And it worked. The film almost made $100 million worldwide on a budget of just $12 million. Maybe I am getting old. Maybe the thought of anyone enjoying something like Project X bothers me a little. Maybe I see the film as being indicative of a floundering youth culture that lacks a variety of generation-to-generation traits and qualities too many of us take for granted. Or maybe it's just a bad film that simply forgot to give its audience characters worth caring about. Whatever the case, Project X is one of a very few movies I consider to have no redeeming value whatsoever, and I can only hope a Project X2 never comes to fruition. Save your cash, save yourself a headache, save yourself the cost of a rental. There are too many worthwhile films -- too many hilarious comedies, raunchy or no -- available to waste much time on morally vapid drivel like this. (I know, I know. Tell us what you really think, Ken.)
Project X Blu-ray, Video Quality
Project X has been cobbled together using a wide array of video sources, from handheld iPhones to Sony Digital-HD F23 cameras. The resulting found-footage presentation (or, perhaps in this case, court-obtained footage) looks great one minute, gets assaulted by strobe lights the next, and gets plunged in noisy, ADD-addled darkness the next. Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer handles it all in stride, even if compression artifacts and other anomalies barge in. Each one is presumably a product of the film's lower quality sources and, for all intents and purposes, the technical presentation is sound. Colors are held hostage by Ken Seng's natural lighting but relatively lifelike all the same, black levels are nice and deep (when noise isn't spiking), and detail is dead on, insofar as it can be. Some shots excel, others wallow in excess with Costa and J.B. Crush and poor delineation are an issue as well but, once again, a source-based issue that shouldn't be held against the encode itself. It may not look it, but Project X boasts a solid transfer that's faithful to its filmmakers' intentions.
Project X Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Don't wake the neighbors. Project X is loud, brash and... well, loud. The shouts of partygoers, the surge of the crowd, the chaos of drunken debauchery, the noise bleeding through the walls, and the thumping, at-times unintelligible party music make for an overwhelming soundscape and, as far as audiophiles should be concerned, a fitting representation of the theatrical experience. Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track won't score any points for nuance or finesse, but it does capture the all-angles onslaught of Thomas' increasingly volatile birthday bash. Dialogue can hardly be classified as clean and clear; it just sounds exactly as it's meant to. Directional effects can hardly be tracked, much less evaluated; the soundfield is simply enveloping. LFE output can't be measured so much as endured; low-end thooms and booms pack plenty of power. And rear speaker activity isn't remarkable, it's just aggressive, taking anything and everything in the soundscape to task. There's a distinct and commendable method to all the madness, though, and Warner's lossless track and Project X's fans are the beneficiaries.
Project X Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Only three brief featurettes are included -- "Pasadena Three," a character overview; "Declassified," a behind-the-scenes rundown; and "Xpensive: Tallying Up the Damages," an overview of the damage left in the wake of the party -- for a grand total of fourteen minutes of high definition extras. The only other notable bonus is an extended cut, which only offers more of the same.
Project X Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Don't worry, I'll spare you the repeat rant. If you decide to brave the Project X waters, you'll be treated to a faithful AV presentation (flaws and all) and a nearly barebones supplemental package built around three mercifully short featurettes. Obviously, I had a strong reaction to Phillips and Nourizadeh's no-holds-barred teen comedy, and that's really the best thing I can say about it. I'm sure someone, somewhere will laugh their head off. I just haven't met them yet.
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