Combustible Celluloid
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With: Thomas Mann, Oliver J. Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Alexis Knapp
Written by: Matt Drake, Michael Bacall
Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/01/2012

Project X (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Monster Party

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When the all-night party movie began, arguably with George Lucas's American Graffiti, the focus was on characters learning a lesson over the course of the night. As the genre became more common, the parties became more and more raucous, as in Sixteen Candles, Superbad, The Hangover and Take Me Home Tonight. But the focus was still on characters learning lessons and becoming better people.

Now comes Project X, which advances the genre to an entirely new level. Screen time that was originally devoted to the nurturing of characters has been set aside to make room for more chaos and destruction. The result is like a crazy experimental film, an exercise in physical filmmaking. In its almost complete embracing of the reckless, it has a weird kind of purity. 

Thomas Mann plays "Thomas," the typical quiet, shy type who "needs" a big party to help him out of his shell. Costa (Oliver J. Cooper), who once lived in Queens, New York, is the anything-goes best friend who keeps saying things like "dude, don't worry about it!" Rounding out our trinity is "JB" (Jonathan Daniel Brown), the overweight, bespectacled nerd whose exterior belies a suave party animal. 

In the usual setup, the parents leave for the weekend, allowing Thomas to have a couple of friends over for his birthday in his suburban, Pasadena home. The nervous Thomas, afraid of getting "crucified" by his parents, sets a maximum of 50 people for his party. The actual number will soon be over a thousand. Thomas begins by trying to sequester the party to the backyard, but it quickly spills into the house. There are broken windows, a dog dyed orange, roof-diving, topless swimming, a little person in an oven, a flamethrower, and much more. The music booms, the cops visit, the neighbors complain, and still the party rages ever larger. 

As the movie progresses, the party devolves into snatches of crazed images, just one flash of nightmarish insanity after another, as if seen through a noisy, drunken haze. In essence, it moves from a giant, writhing mass to individual moments of primal, human contact. The fuzzy, hung-over morning after brings with it a message that viewers over 30 may disapprove of. 

Meanwhile, Project X understands that the real function of a party isn't to learn a lesson. Going to a party involves turning off your brain and turning on your body; of all the party movies, this one comes the closest to capturing that switch onscreen.
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