Flame thrower — check. Mayhem — check. Best party movie ever — two out of three isn’t bad.
It’s so disappointing to report that “Project X” doesn’t rise to the lofty expectations it set for itself. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, but with comparisons to “Superbad” and “The Hangover” in the trailers, the film set its own bar too high.
If you’ve somehow managed to not see the trailers for “Project X,” it’s the story of three dudes — because it’s always three — who set out to have a small party in an attempt to become popular, but end up throwing the kind of party most fraternities only dream about.
The gags are plentiful, and there are more than enough WTF moments. In particular, the pint-sized security team played by Brady Hender and Nick Nervies steals the show. If “Project X” had focused more on concocting original material — like it did with the security team — and spent less time trying to duplicate something that already exists, it could have been this year’s best R-rated comedy.
The real problem with this move lies in the three leads. “Superbad” and “The Hangover” worked because we cared about their characters, and they gave us something to laugh at between the sight gags and bigger set pieces. The “Project X” characters fall short of the standard set in these earlier and better films. Thomas Mann plays the lead, Thomas, and does a decent job of playing that slightly awkward straight man we’ve already seen perfected by Michael Cera. Take one guess at which other “Superbad” star the other two friends emulate. In “Superbad,” Jonah Hill was foul-mouthed and brash, but with a dash of pathos thrown in, ensuring he was more than just a collection of F-bombs and dick jokes. In contrast, “Project X” supporting players Oliver Cooper (Costa) and Jonathan Daniel Brown (JB) are just plain rude.
The film is funny though, and some moments are epic.
Like “Chronicle” earlier this year, this film attempts to reappropriate the found-footage genre from the realm of horror flicks. While it’s not unrealistic to constantly record a party that reaches the magnitude of the one in “Project X,” I don’t understand why this particular cinematic device was used. There aren’t many moments where the film benefits from the found-footage treatment, but neither does it take away from the experience.
All in all, I’m sure that when “21 Jump Street” comes out in a few weeks, it will crush “Project X” in box-office sales. What a shame.