"Til the break of dawn, yo!"
Todd Phillips has built a reputation for lovable anarchy. He's tackled everything under the sun that could lead young males into chaos: long distance travel (ROAD TRIP, DUE DATE), post-secondary education (OLDS SCHOOL), and of course, the debauchery that comes with pre-wedding shenanigans (THE HANGOVER I & II). His latest exercise (only as producer, but his fingerprints are everywhere) breaches house parties, and does so phenomenally.
Thomas, Costa, and J.B. are three typical high school teens with typical high school problems. They're deemed uncool by their peers and unloved by girls. To fight stigmas, they plan a party that will place them in the good graces that social circles demand. This is both the lead-up and the entire plot.
The backdrop to the celebration is Thomas's (Thomas Mann) birthday. His parents are going out of town, lending a setting to their plans. Before they leave, we overhear Thomas' dad saying that there's nothing to fear, his son is too much a loser to do much damage. This obligatory set up does more to describe the father's character than what's in store for us. The reason we're able to intimately listen in on private conversations is the 'found-footage' motif the film follows. This year alone, PROJECT X assumes the constructs that CHRONICLE, and THE DEVIL INSIDE utilized. This genre isn't going away any time soon, although the fatigue this variety can breed is largely averted due to its consistently changing viewpoints.
Thomas is shy and unassuming; the antithesis of the alpha male. His night's goal is to bag a babe, plain and simple. School bombshell Alexis, or best friend Kirby will suffice. J.B. is big and goofy (and possibly mentally handicapped--if his parents have any say in the matter). He pops into focus for the occasional line and laugh. Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the undisputed ringleader of the trio. A Queens, NY transplant whose prodding plunges the boys deeper into the morality spiral. He spins tales of his former life, constantly reminding us of how he bedded ladies like he was Y: The Last Man. Costa is simultaneously the best and worst guy to be around in a situation like this. He proves he can bring the noise, but also the pain.
As you've undoubtedly seen by the trailers and television spots, the party goes awry. The fun transpires from guessing where exactly it heads, and how it gets there. PROJECT X climbs to pretty unimaginable levels. Not so much toeing the line of believability, as busting through it with a sledgehammer. The film harks back to 2008, when Australian Corey Delaney hosted a similar shindig when his parents were absent. The resulting calamity cost untold damages to his house and the surrounding neighborhood, and a $20,000 fine from the authorities. In PROJECT X, the tipping point occurs when a little person (Martin Klebba) is locked into an oven, before breaking out and punching anyone in the junk; no wait, it's when Thomas' dog Milo gets high and floats away, attached to helium-filled balloons; or maybe it was when a man and his flamethrower enter the foray. You get the idea.
There's a moment when the police comes to interrupt the flow. Thomas and Costa meet them at the door, defusing the situation with a calm demeanor and legal jargon. The cops go away empty handed, while the hosts walk through the house to the backyard. The camera follows close behind, soon revealing the hushed, huddled masses below, just waiting for word. Costa, screeches into the night, Kid Cudi's 'Pursuit of Happiness' blares from the speakers, and it's on once more. That scene alone, to me, was worth admission. Pure, unadulterated jubilation. No acting required.