'Project X' raises all-night party movie to new level 

click to enlarge Wild and crazy: From left, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper and Thomas Mann play characters who get out of control in “Project X.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Wild and crazy: From left, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper and Thomas Mann play characters who get out of control in “Project X.”

In the first all-night party movie, arguably George Lucas' "American Graffiti," the focus was on characters learning a lesson over the course of the night.

As the genre became more common, the parties got more and more raucous – as in "Sixteen Candles," "Superbad," "The Hangover" and "Take Me Home Tonight" – but the focus was still on characters learning things and becoming better people.

But "Project X" advances the genre to an entirely new level. Screen time  once devoted to nurturing 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: As it embraces what’s reckless, it has a weird kind of purity.

Thomas Mann plays Thomas, the quiet, shy type who "needs" a big party to help him come out of his shell.

Costa (Oliver J. Cooper), who once lived in Queens, N.Y. 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.

As usual, parents leave for the weekend, allowing Thomas to have a couple of friends over for his birthday in his suburban, Pasadena home. Nervous and afraid of getting "crucified" by his parents, Thomas sets a maximum of 50 people for his party.

The actual number will tally to more than 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  more.

The music booms, the cops visit, the neighbors complain, and still the party rages on. The film 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 a message that viewers over 30 will likely disapprove.

Yet "Project X" filmmakers understand 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.

Project X

three stars
Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver J. Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
Written by Matt Drake, Michael Bacall
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Rated R
Running time
1 hour 28 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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