A few weeks ago, I complained that it seemed like I was reviewing "found-footage" movies all the time.
Well, this trend doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. It has embedded itself into the heads of Hollywood executives like bastard deer ticks given the gift of immortality. The continued financial success of junk like the Paranormal movies, the shaky-cam exorcism movies and Chronicle has studio heads at this very moment looking at rejected scripts and reconsidering them as future "found-footage" extravaganzas. Cut that budget; employ the shaky cam; and watch the dollars roll in!
The latest offender is Project X, produced by The Hangover's Todd Phillips and directed by Nima Nourizadeh. The film is another unoriginal R-rated teen comedy about a really, really big party—except this time, the whole thing is being presented under the pretense that it's being filmed by some weirdo for his AV class.
I was a little less annoyed by a person filming supposedly funny things, as opposed to a person holding on to a camera while being attacked by monsters and maniacs. It would be quite easy to film partying topless women in a bounce house without pissing your pants, dropping the camera and running away screaming in fear. It's just a theory of mine.
That said, the script for this movie is no better than one of the American Pie direct-to-video sequels. While a bunch of teens getting together and throwing a wild party has been funny in the past, and will most assuredly be funny in the future, it is not funny with Project X, thanks to an unmemorable cast.
In the role of the normal teen who becomes a rebel by the film's end, there's Thomas Mann as Thomas, the birthday boy for whom the giant party is being thrown. The party is being orchestrated by Costa (Oliver Cooper), and he's using Thomas' house, because Costa's parents are away, and he wouldn't dare do anything this potentially destructive at his own place. Throw in Jonathan Daniel Brown as the fat guy trying to get laid, and you have your basic blueprint for a high school sex comedy.
The party starts slowly, but once it gets rolling, a "no people in the house" rule goes out the window, and things eventually start breaking and catching fire. Automobiles wind up in pools, and dudes show up with flamethrowers. It's your standard Saturday-night kegger gone awry—except this time, it's all shaky, and Nourizadeh seems more concerned with escalating chaos than actual comedy.
Most of the gags are variations on the same old jokes we've seen before. A little man punches people in the junk. A dog humps things. A guy finds a dildo and waves it around. I'm surprised nobody screwed a pie or shot a load into a beer glass.
I did get a good laugh out of one sequence: When a neighbor becomes fed up with the noise, he shows up on the porch and demands silence. The situation escalates until people get Tasered, and adults start punching adolescents in the face. It's the one true moment in the film that is shocking and original enough to garner real laughs. Unfortunately, Project X needed at least another 15 moments like that.
To pad things out, the director offers numerous montages of sweaty teens dancing, swimming and jumping. It's like they edited things together, came up with a 60-minute film, and realized they needed more, so they threw a lot of tits at the camera. For those of you who like tits over all else—and I know a bunch of you are out there—go ahead, and have at it.
How is it that moviegoers are flocking en masse to dreck like this? What's next? Will they do a found-footage remake of Titanic in which Jack just happens to have a prototype movie camera in his bag courtesy of a curious Thomas Edison? Or a John F. Kennedy found-footage film, courtesy of a small 8-millimeter camera planted by the CIA in Jackie O.'s pillbox hat? That way, we could see the assassination up-close and in our face! It would make the Zapruder film look like Dumbo. While they're at it, they could jump on another trend and make it a 3-D JFK assassination film. Why not? They're going 3-D with Titanic!
The found-footage phenomenon is like an aggressive cinematic virus released in a film studio by one of those crazy bad-virus monkeys. And nobody—not Dustin Hoffman, not Matt Damon—will be able to stop it.
In fact, I hear Dustin Hoffman is hard at work on a found-footage remake of Tootsie. Should be a real gas! And shaky!