The “found footage” in the vulgar teen comedy Project X includes slow-motion, montages, background music and cameras covering multiple angles and locations at one event, raising the question of why, other than cutting costs and excusing sloppy camera work, the filmmakers bothered to present the movie as found footage at all. That pointless trend-following is emblematic of the slapdash nature of Project X, which features three teenage doofuses (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown) attempting to throw the coolest party of the year while one guy’s parents are out of town.
It’s a basic teen-movie setup, the only difference being that the party escalates to such grandiose proportions that it essentially turns into a large-scale riot, precipitating an ill-advised dark turn in the movie’s final act. Up until that point, though, there’s nothing remarkable about the shy main character and his two best friends, one cocky would-be womanizer and one shy nerd, and their efforts to become part of the cool crowd. Cooper’s performance as the obnoxious party instigator is instantly grating and gets more irritating as the movie goes on, and the tone of the movie is similarly ugly and mean-spirited. There’s no worthwhile character development or underlying warmth to counteract the relentless sleaze and vulgarity, which isn’t clever or funny on its own.
As the party expands further and further, director Nima Nourizadeh abandons any fidelity to the found-footage format or interest in the main character’s feeble love story, instead focusing on a Girls Gone Wild-style parade of topless young women and sweaty bodies mashing together, all shot and scored like a cut-rate music video. Once the dust settles, the central trio of self-centered jerks haven’t matured or grown closer or even shared any real laughs; they’ve just been admired and praised for behaving like complete assholes. The movie doesn’t deserve to be similarly rewarded.