Why the Utter Failure of “Project X” is More Terrifying Than If It Had Actually Succeeded

Why the Utter Failure of “Project X” is More Terrifying Than If It Had Actually Succeeded

The most noteworthy achievement of party-rocking send-up Project X is that the garden gnome (whose fingers are permanently flipping the bird) doesn’t end up stuck conspicuously on a kitchen table or on a book shelf at film’s end as the unwitting parents of the party boy inspect the house for signs of shenanigans.

Instead, they blow it up.

About 25 minutes from the end, some kid smashes open the garden gnome with a baseball bat and out spills hundreds of pills of ecstasy (which in turn sets off—in order—a party worthy of local news coverage, the incineration of a neighborhood, and eventually a fat kid jumping off a house onto a bouncy castle.)

This solitary act of destruction is perhaps the 88-minute movie’s sole redeeming moment.

First, let’s get this out of the way. I’m 27 years old, I teach at a college, and I’m reviewing a movie that is targeted for kids probably too dumb to do much beyond getting a degree in masturbating in their parent’s basement till they turn 21. If you want to scream “foul” at my lack of fitting-within-the-demographic. Go right ahead. It doesn’t change the fact that I’d be typing the same damn thing if I was 17 and high on grape slushies.

Second, this movie has no point. But these movies never have any point. And this is not a criticism. These kinds of films focus on what characters who would later end up in some Judd Apatow movie are doing during high school. The genre traces roots back to Animal House through Superbad and Can’t Hardly Wait. And though they always feel a bit conservative and hokey (EVEN THE FAT KID GETS A BLOWJOB!), I suppose there is some props for the democratizing agent in all of these works. Like Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night,” we are all doing this. We are all—the geeks, the goth kid with a camera, the jocks—together. Ok. Fine. I get it.

The problem is that nothing really provocative happens. Bikini tops fly off, someone (or a lot of people) get into dad’s liquor cabinet, R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind” gets played, and a car is driven into the pool. But, the film’s jackshot is way too early and way too predictable. And the fact that Project X fails—for its commendable raunch, putrid humor, and face-planting ignorance—is truly something to behold.

Here’s how the film could’ve been improved:

1)   Cook the midget. A midget (somehow) shows up and (somehow) gets shoved in an oven. The fat kid and his Jewish-Queens friend save the little fella. This sucks. The director could’ve made a real move here with some rotisserie.

2)   The yorkie should die. Even though everything in the house gets destroyed, the dog (of course!) survives. Instead, when the dog is attached to multiple helium balloons, floating over the garage, let him go. Now THAT’S comedy!

3)   The guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. There’s a moment where protagonist birthday boy (and young Jay Gabler-look-alike!) Thomas Kubb realizes he’s a complete dumbass for losing his girl interest, Kirby. Instead, go for cathartic realism (Hey! We’ve all been there!) and ride his solitary status out with the moralizing message being, shit, we really got crazy.

But the filmmakers don’t do any of these things because ultimately, they don’t understand their audience. They do sense the anticipation will be high. But they don’t satisfy. They keep tapping the same vein: fat kid jokes, calling people “fags,” making reference to wet dicks, etc. And in desperation, a Vietnam vet shows up on top of a car in movie’s end to incinerate the neighborhood and incite an Arab Spring Break-style riot.

But even this (through the first-person, as-it’s-happening camera angles) feels uncannily boring.

We’ve seen riots, we’ve seen drugged out bash fests, we’ve seen girl-on-girl-on-guy, and we’ve seen adults sucker-punching little kids for comic effect. The audience at my theater was thoroughly underwhelmed, sort of like when my roommate brought over a bunch of guys from our floor to watch this homemade porn he shot after hyping it to everyone for weeks and weeks, only to see a couple blase acts and some weird night-vision shit. This is it?!, we seemed to ask.

Ditto. Nothing about Project X is really “x-rated.” Sadly, we need some harder stuff. Us maniacs (the kids and the adults) in the seats are getting restless. And this, I’m afraid, is what’s really scary about this movie.

Dunstan McGill