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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Review of “Found Footage” Movies: Episode 1 – Project X

Over a couple of months, two studios are releasing two “found footage” movies involving teenagers who get out of control at a party, Chronicle and Project X. (A third one, which mines this theme, but is a somewhat different animal and not pretending to be found footage, 21 Jump Street, is also on the way.) The two films couldn’t really – considering how much they tread on the same themes – be less alike.

Project X isn’t really a found footage movie. It’s a found-a-cache-of early-1990s-music-videos movie. Add a parade 20something hot girls who came to LA to be actresses and may well end up doing porn or Skinemax movies, in and out of show-off underwear to this ad that was shot the Project X‘s first-featuring director…

… and you pretty much have Project X.

To be fair, throw in Oliver Cooper as the sweater vest wearing fast talking kid (think Brett Ratner) who is the closest thing the movie has to an interesting character.

In many ways, I think Project X is from the heart… or somewhere a foot or so below that. But sincerely the idea of great fun for some people. “What if three high schoolers managed to create, pretty much by mistake, a living breathing music video set?” And that’s what they made. For better or for worse.

The film reminded me of all the R-ish teen films they Frankensteined together, but with even more T, a ton more A, and a lack of the narrative thread that those other movies used to fill in the beats between T&A. Ironically, this phenomenon is defined by Kirby Bliss Blanton as The Object Of Presumed Unavailability Even Though The Mutual Crush Is Obvious From Second One. Ms. Blanton is, if not the most teen-boy-boner-inducing female in the film without ever taking her clothes off, an equal bit of lust induction to any of the fake-breasted, how-quickly-can-I-get-your-penis-in-my-mouth-because-I-don’t-really-care-thanks-to-the-hysterically-funny-drugs-I-took women in the film. Project X doesn’t go for the pretty girl with her hair up and glasses on schtick. Ms. Blanton has a face born to Vanity Fair covers.

Of course, the story is Loser Kid, Cool Friend who is not that attractive but could talk the Israelies into giving up Jerusalem, and Fat Kid who is a secret sex machine. A little bit Superbad, a little bit Risky Business, a little bit True Romance… not as good as any of those movies for a minute. The ironic reason for this film’s inherent inferiority is that is trying so very hard. By the third act, not only have the kids lost, as was inevitable from minute one, control… but the filmmakers have completely lost whatever idea of a narrative thread they once had. So the only play to escape the film is, “Bigger.” Doesn’t work.

The thing about Risky Business that kept it grounded was the urge to actually get into college. The thing about Superbad that kept it grounded was the urge to actually get Emma Stone. Project X has no real goal. Yes, it is about coming of age. But none of the characters have a believable or relatable arc, ultimately.

I don’t know how this film will play with its intended audience, which is not me at all. Reflecting on when I would have been the audience for this film, it seems a lot like what I would have wanted… Porky’s on steroids and implants. But are boys still getting turned on by late night cable programming? They all have computers and there is actual porn available all over the place. Does a beautiful ass filling the screen in slow motion require multiple viewings? Alexis Knapp is lovely… and she even claims to have been concerned about not just being another pair of boobs and a warm place for some idiot to put their penis in this film. But alas… that’s all her character is… an inexpensive Megan Fox fill-in who’ll give up the bra on camera. And ironically, that is what keeps her from being more memorable.

Maybe it will be huge. Women should hate every second. But there is plenty of self-loathing out there, so maybe enjoying this film will be a new form of cutting for teen girls. Who knows? And maybe the concentration of T&A and just enough story to reach to identify with will excite a lot of boys. I expect a strong opening, if a certain lack of legs. But rarely is a film released by a studio made less for me.

Coming in Episode II: Why Chronicle may be the most important film released in the first half of this year.

11 Responses to “Review of “Found Footage” Movies: Episode 1 – Project X”

  1. Paul D/Stella says:

    I believe it was the LA Times that said it’s projected to open with around $20 million. Seems like that would be pretty good. It was dirt cheap to make right?

  2. christian says:

    I still recall seeing FRAT HOUSE at SXSW back in 98…who knew Todd Phillip’s dream was to be an honored pledge?

  3. anghus says:

    Oliver Cooper’s character was so grating for the first fifteen minutes. There wasn’t a likable moment for him. He was a walking dick whose shtick got old real fast. Fortunately he gets easier to deal with as the movie goes on.

  4. actionman says:

    Why isn’t Frat House available on DVD? Have always wanted to see it.

  5. Ray Pride says:

    A quick Google search didn’t turn up the reasons, but it may have to do with the doc/not-doc controversy. Hmmm… Someone around here should know.

  6. berg says:

    frat house was not aired when participants sued HBO claiming they had signed releases when they were drunk … also lots of docs stage events they are trying to depict

  7. Ray Pride says:

    Bad releases on a documentary project, tho, that’s close to fatal. Must’ve been here.

  8. Bill S says:

    At the risk of stepping in sanj’s territory, the whole thing is uploaded to Youtube.

    (link to copyright infringing material removed by mcn editor)

  9. Earlhofert says:

    There is a very good chance thatr I am either flat-out wrong or thinking of another film whose title eludes me now (I suspect the latter since I couldn’t find any reference to it) but didn’t Frat House have some other problem involving footage of an apparent sexual assault. If I am thinking of something else, please supply that title so I don’t go mad. . .

  10. berg says:

    If I am thinking of something else, please supply that title

    that would be Raw Deal A Question of Consent

  11. christian says:

    What’s ironic is that every Todd Philips film is celebrated in frat houses across the nation today.

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“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook