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(2012) (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper) (R)

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Comedy: Three high-school teens seek to throw a legendary party.
High school senior Thomas (THOMAS MANN) is about to celebrate his birthday and his two best friends -- foul-mouthed, inappropriate Costa (OLIVER COOPER) and pudgy, awkward JB (JONATHAN DANIEL BROWN) -- have designs to throw the biggest party they and their classmates have ever seen. The party will be at Thomas' house while his Dad (PETER MACKENZIE) and Mom (CAITLIN DULANY) are out of town, and the three promote it in every way they can think of: flyers, radio ads, Facebook, Craigslist, and so forth.

They secure plenty of alcohol, marijuana, blow-up dolls, and food. They also briefly run afoul of a drug dealer named T-Rick (RICK SHAPIRO), who becomes irate after Thomas, Costa, and JB steal his prized garden gnome (prized because it holds a secret stash of Ecstasy pills).

Thomas is hoping to score with his dream girl, Alexis (ALEXIS KNAPP), at the party. Costa and JB are looking to score -- period. It's not long before the party spins completely out of control as word spreads. Soon, hundreds of teens and young adults are seen crowding the street of Thomas' neighborhood, police and SWAT teams in riot gear begin amassing in force, news choppers start flying overhead, T-Rick shows up with a flame thrower, and police in riot gear start amassing. Amid the chaos, Thomas finds himself falling in love with Kirby (KIRBY BLISS BLANTON), the nice girl he's known all his life.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Ah, the new movie "Project X." In some ways, it has inspired more thought and provoked more soul searching than movies like "Schindler's List" and "Crash." There is a part of me that doesn't want to be a prude. I don't want to seem like an old fuddy-duddy, past his prime, past his youth complaining about the "kids of today" and their music and parties and care-free living. I don't want to sit and watch a movie and have the one prevailing thought going through my head be: "Life is precious! Dying at 17 at a stupid party with people you don't really like who don't really like you is NOT cool!"

But that's me at 41...a husband, a father, a homeowner. Watching a movie in which three high school kids (Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, and Jonathan Daniel Brown) throw a house party that mushrooms to include 1,500 high-school and college-age kids (and a couple of sad, forty-something dudes spread throughout) getting drunk, wasted, and high and causes the destruction of multiple homes and vehicles is just not as much fun as it would have been when I was 17 or 18. However, if I was 17 or 18, I would probably love this flick. It will probably be playing at house parties, in dorm rooms, and frat houses for years to come. I hope the studio's legal department is prepared.

The plot is pretty standard. Three high-school losers want to get popular (and get lucky), so they throw a party. One of the three, Thomas (Mann), is your standard Michael Cera type (in my day, it was John Cusack or Anthony Michael Hall). He's not a nerd of the horn-rimmed glasses and pocket-protector type. He's just a decent, unremarkable kid who has never been the best looking, the most athletic, or the funniest kid in the class. His best friend, Costa (Cooper) is your typical "walking hormone" type, whose every thought, word, and deed revolves around getting sex, getting high, and getting popular. They're both friends with JB (Brown) your standard, pudgy loser type.

As much as "Project X" tries to be an example of extreme cinema, it's a pretty safe, uninspired movie with personalities that you never really root for. At the end of movies like "American Pie" and "Sixteen Candles," you came to really like those kids who partied too hard and woke up the next morning forever changed. You laughed at their deeds and misdeeds. Some of the things they did were disgusting, yes. But you were always on their side.

"Project X" is a movie that seems to be a bit at war with itself. It wants to be the traditional "geeks-make-good" movie a la "Superbad" or "Revenge of the Nerds." But it also wants its audience to revel in how nasty their behavior is and how badly they treat each other. You, the viewer, are not so much cheering for these guys to find true love and acceptance. You're being positioned to root for them to vomit, to break bones, to get arrested, to get "messed up." That's not as much fun.

Silly me. I briefly thought this film would have some guts, though. I hoped that it wouldn't go easy on its characters by the time the end credits rolled a la "The Hangover" movies. I mean, if you're going to make a movie about a party that starts with a few dozen high-school kids and explodes to include over 1,000 drunken young people fighting the police and dodging a crazed drug dealer with a flamethrower, it seemed likely there would real consequences at the end. But this flick totally "wimps" out in its resolution. It goes so soft late in its running that I half-expected the flick to end with Thomas on a glass table giving his new girlfriend a smooch over a lit birthday cake.

But, again, this is not a movie for a forty-something man deathly afraid of what lies ahead for his precious seven-year-old daughter who, in his eyes, is as pure as the driven snow. I guess these films eventually become rites of passage of sorts. But I can't in good conscience sign off on it. At best, I give "Project X" a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed February. 27, 2012 / Posted March 2, 2012

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