Project X is the movie equivalent of that good-looking, well-off teenage boy your gut tells you to keep away from your teenage daughter. He might turn on the charm and come from what we assume is a "good family." But something sets off the warning bells — that he has lost his mind to his hormones, that he objectifies women in the worst way, that he's too casual with homophobic slurs.
That doesn't describe Thomas (Thomas Mann), the gawky upper-middle-class teen in this Hangover for high schoolers. But it nails his pal Costa (Oliver Cooper). Costa's a blustering transplanted New Yorker who eggs on Thomas as they plan a parents-out-of-town birthday party, mocks their mutual pal J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and is hell-bent on turning this suburban fete into an epic party that will be the "game changer" for their social status, lift them into their high school's elite and give them access to sex with the school hotties.
And no list of warnings — "Do not go into my office." — from Thomas' colorless dad (Peter Mackenzie) can steer the boys from a collision course with destiny.
Things start to go wrong when they rip off Costa's well-armed, disturbed drug dealer. Costa has blasted the invitations all over social media, so Thomas will host hordes of "randoms," peers who don't know he exists. Not to worry, though. Costa has hired a team of middle schoolers who have nunchucks and Tasers and jackets with "security" on them.
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What could go wrong?
Naturally, Thomas pursues the hottest girl in school, who is utterly compliant. Naturally, his gorgeous longtime pal Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton), the only woman given even a hint of personality, is hurt by this.
This production from Todd Phillips (Hangover, Old School) has its share of explosive laughs. Excess — the tree house turned into a beer dispensary, with hoses running to ground level — to the size and scope of the blowout, is what passes for humor here.
Yeah, the cops show up. And the TV news helicopters. And an ill-tempered dwarf (Martin Klebba, in a cameo that steals the movie).
But it's a wearying "romp," from its tired "lose our virginity" formula to the conceit of making this a "birthday" mockumentary, ostensibly filmed by the goth-video nerd Dax (Dax Flame). Director Nima Nourizadeh loses track of that for long stretches.
Even with the scores of random shots of female bottoms, topless teens and ogled short skirts, it's hard to say whether screenwriters Michael Bacall and Matt Drake or Nourizadeh are unrepentant pigs. Maybe Phillips is their Costa, the bottom-feeder egging them on.
Project X is more politically incorrect than hateful, even if it is just shy of Girls Gone Wild in its sexism. Clueless boys in its target audience might mistake it for a date movie.