Movies featuring house parties are a staple of American cinema, from 1978’s Animal House to recent hits like Superbad. These parties are always filled with teenagers behaving badly—sometimes with dire consequences to the host home—but, by and large, audiences enjoy them because the consensus is that those things only happen in the movies. But what if a party like the ones in American Pie or Take Me Home Tonight actually happened? That’s the premise behind Warner Bros.’ shaky-cam extravaganza Project X, available now on a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with UltraViolet digital copy (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, MSRP: $35.99).
Thomas Kub (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) are three friends on the wrong side of popular who decide to take advantage of Thomas’ parents’ absence and throw a “game changing” bash to celebrate his 17th birthday. Their goals are modest: get drunk, get laid, get noticed. In their zeal to meet their goal of 50 guests (“It’s just big enough to be cool,” Thomas rationalizes), they dramatically over-promote and end up with more than 1,500 fun seekers.
Soon the worry shifts from being grounded to being arrested, as bodies pack the yard, invade the house and wreak havoc in the neighborhood. The entire evening comes to a head when a psychotic drug dealer (and his flame thrower) crashes the party just as the police show up in force to shut it down.
Produced by Todd Phillips (the director of The Hangover), Project X contains every bit of the debauchery one might expect, colored by underage angst and bravado. The point of view is decidedly male, and more than a bit misogynistic as the guys reduce females (with the exception of one-of-the-guys Kirby, played by Kirby Bliss Blanton) to their body parts and their willingness to flash them.
The party scenes are outrageous, and include a few that border on uncomfortable (kids blowing marijuana smoke into the face of a Yorkie, for one). The attitudes toward boozing, drug use and no-strings sex are very casual, and such things are taken to the farthest extremes (beer bongs suspended from a tree, a cache of ecstasy being distributed like candy from a piñata, a pool and bounce house full of topless teen girls making out with each other). This film is not for the fainthearted.
In an effort to enhance the realism of this documentary style (and blur the lines between fantasy and reality), nearly all of the actors’ character names are, in fact, their actual first names. This lends an invisible layer of authenticity on top of what is a very realistic film—so much so, parents all over California (and other parts of the United States) may well have anxiety attacks thinking of their precious teens acting in the manner of these party guests.
Far from showing how bad decisions will have disastrous consequences, the film seems to end with a virtual thumbs up, a wink-and-a-nod to the whole idea that kids will be kids, and maybe Thomas wasn’t the loser his parents had branded him after all. Such flippancy might be what contributed to a rash of teens trying to emulate the film’s epic party in cities across the country over spring break, some with deadly consequences.
The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack contains an extended version of the film with extra party footage and one-on-one interactions, plus a few exclusive special features that reveal how much effort goes into making a film that seems to be cobbled together from hand-held video cameras and cell phone clips.
There will be many who watch this movie (mainly parents) and wonder what the producers were thinking. “Project X: Declassified” gives viewers that insight, as the producers, director and cast talk about what makes the film special, and why it isn’t just The Hangover for teens.
Anyone watching the chaos unfold can’t help but try and keep a running total in their heads of the damages incurred to the Kub house (and their neighborhood). “Project Xpensive: Tallying up the Damages” is a short round up of the biggest and/or most interesting costs accrued, from the actual home (a cool $1.8 million) to the anger management classes for irate neighbor Rob (Rob Evors).
The producers also put a lot of effort into making the core trio’s friendship so effortless. “Project X: Pasadena Three,” also included on the single-disc DVD with UltraViolet digital copy (MSRP: $29.98), delves into that casting process, including some of the actors’ audition tapes, and follows their antics off-camera as they bonded throughout filming.
The viewer’s ultimate opinion of Project X will ultimately depend on their age and/or maturity level: the young will undoubtedly embrace this as the party film of the year, while parents of teens will likely cringe and call their insurance providers to increase their home coverage…just in case.
Project X is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.