It's Thomas' birthday, and his parents will be out of town. His best friend, Costa, wants to throw him a party—a "game changer" of a shindig that'll feature booze, drugs, sex (he hopes), two DJs and (somehow) all the popular kids that, up to this point, think Thomas isn't so much a classmate as a tank engine they saw in kindergarten.
And, just so you know, Costa would like to hold the party at Thomas' house—against his parents' explicit wishes—and record every minute of it. If you want to keep something under wraps, after all, it's always advisable to slap it on video.
With all that in mind, how many people (Costa asks) should be invited?
"Costa," Thomas says, "you're my best friend, but you're also a jerk. I trust you about as much as a rabid wolverine. I don't do drugs and I've vowed to stay pure until marriage. Frankly, if by being myself I'm not cool enough to be liked by the popular kids, I'm not sure I want to buy their friendship through alcohol and wanton debauchery. But if you wanna come over and play a little cribbage, you're more than welcome."
Or that's presumably what Thomas would say in some parallel universe in which the lad will go on to medical school instead of jail. In our universe—in this movie's universe—however, Thomas says something entirely different:
"Fifty people, max. Just enough people to be cool."
This section begins and ends with the acting of Thomas Mann, who plays Project X's birthday boy. In this throwaway bit of cinematic lint, Mann infuses Thomas with something akin to heart: In him we see the central struggle of adolescence come alive—the desire to please his parents pitted against the overwhelming felt need to fit in with his peers.
But he's given little to work with—and neither are we. So beyond that quick shout-out all I can do is offer a weak golf clap for Thomas retrieving Milo, the family dog, after revelers tie the beast to a bunch of helium-filled balloons. And we can utter a sigh of relief when Costa tells his 12-year-old "security detail" to not firebomb the neighbor's house.
Cast note for any women interested in answering audition inquiries for Project Y: An apparent prerequisite for this franchise is to be comfortable going topless—a far more important requirement, it would seem, than the ability to act. Altogether, women collectively bare far more breasts than utter lines. We see at least a dozen young ladies wearing just bikini bottoms or panties. Some play in a child's bounce house. Others cavort in a pool decorated with a sign that says swimmers must be naked. One appears in a cellphone picture.
Another takes Thomas into a bedroom and both wind up largely undressed, with her pushing his hands over her exposed breasts as she writhes on top of him. They're interrupted and Thomas runs out of the room, leaving her to get dressed alone—or so she thinks. Project X supposedly consists of documentary footage, and it turns out that the tweenage "security guard" is hiding in the closet with a tiny video camera. Once exposed, he calmly asks if he can help her with her bra.
Women passionately kiss one another. Two smooch and reach into the pants of an appreciative man. We see loads of people making out. Heavily making out. A couple engaged in sex is interrupted. A guy's erection is visible underneath his underwear. Another young man acts out sex with a ceramic garden gnome. ("That's technically a homosexual act," a bystander says.) Milo "humps" both a disinterested basset hound and the face of a passed-out partier.
People describe sexual exploits, sexual body parts and sexual fantasies in graphic detail. One monologue involves hang-around friend JB schooling his comrades in the finer points of hand stimulation. Sex dolls float in the pool, and Costa suggests that by the end of the night the pool will consist mostly of semen. A guy finds a sex toy in Thomas' parents' bedroom and eagerly sniffs it. Someone accuses Thomas of staring at his genitals. A woman licks tequila off Thomas' neck and encourages him to engage in a sensuous lip-lock with her and a lime. Couples mimic sex while dancing. And two 14-year-old freshmen seductively grind with an older partner. Songs with incredibly explicit lyrics litter the film's soundtrack.
We learn that Costa gets hit with three post-party paternity suits.
A drug dealer breaks the windshield of Thomas' minivan and throws him into the vehicle's side. Later, he shows up at Thomas' place and uses a flamethrower to set the house, the yard and much of the neighborhood on fire. Riot police shoot the dealer with rubber bullets, puncturing his container of gas or napalm or whatever he's carrying, setting him on fire. Blazing, he runs through the streets and ducks into a mobile home that promptly blows up. (We later learn that he somehow survived.)
A little person is stuffed into an (unheated) oven. Costa rescues him, and for his troubles gets punched in the groin. The angry guy then punches everyone he can reach. And, later, he drives a Mercedes into the pool—punching a few more people's privates when he resurfaces.
We see several more scuffles beyond those. A couple of people are hit by cars. Windows are broken. Chandeliers are pulled down. The tween "guard" Tasers a neighbor. The neighbor in turn punches him in the face. People jump from rooftops—sometimes into a pool, sometimes on a rapidly deflating bounce castle, one landing hard on a deck. There's talk of pretending to kill cops and a guy making his parents "disappear."
Crude or Profane Language
There are 206* f-words in Project X.
The asterisk means there are probably more than that due to how many times rapid-fire multiples tripped off folks tongues, the obscene soundtrack that kept thumping in the background and the fact that while scribbling hash marks in my notepad my pen literally ran out of ink.
Add to that close to 100 s-words and ad nauseam instances of "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n," "f-g," and vulgar, crass descriptors for the human body and the things a human body can do during sex. God's name is misused at least 10 times (including once with "d‑‑n"); Jesus' name is abused three or four times. Racial epithets crop up in lyrics. Obscene gestures are made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Revelers (most of them underage) drink beer, wine, vodka, tequila and a bevy of other intoxicating beverages. We see them shotgun beer and chug tequila from clear containers shaped like guns. Most everyone gets seriously and obviously inebriated. While in a grocery store, Costa hands an infant a tiny bottle of vodka, encouraging him to drink it. (The baby wisely cries instead.) Partygoers play beer pong.
Thomas, Costa and JB buy marijuana from a shady drug dealer (as if there was any other kind): We see loads of folks smoke the stuff, sometimes blowing the smoke into the face of poor little Milo, the dog.
Ecstasy tablets fly out of the garden gnome when somebody purposely breaks it (after its stolen). They're quickly gobbled up. And when Costa goes inside and finds Thomas moping upstairs, he suggests the birthday boy take a tab—even as he offers a nod of respect to Thomas for not being a "drug guy." When Thomas asks whether the drug might mess with his mind (in far cruder terms), Costa says, "Of course it will, dude! That's the whole point!"
Thomas takes it. And when a friend tells him how high he looks, she does so with a bit of admiration.
Other Negative Elements
We see two people vomit, and a girl urinates behind a car. Parents are disrespected and lied to. Police officers are misled, and police cars are pelted by protesters. Costa barges in on a showering Thomas and puts soap on his toothbrush.
Thomas stands on the roof of his house, watching the crazed crowd—consisting of hundreds now, perhaps a thousand—turn his neighborhood into something between Woodstock and a war zone. The music pounds. Bodies bounce. Girls giggle. And we see in Thomas' face—gray, sweaty, wasted—a look that borders on despair. The house is trashed. His parents know something's up. The only way this party will ever end is if police arrive, and in force.
Costa sidles up beside him and watches the teeming mass below.
"Thomas," he gasps. "Look at what we did. Epic."
Thomas looks up and sees a news helicopter. And then—almost as if he's throwing his soul to the wind—he raises both middle fingers and screams obscenities at the heavens, his eyes dark and sunken, his mouth twisted in a shrieking smile.
Only in Hollywood could this story end well.
Only there would we see Thomas go back to school the next day in his burned-out, doorless minivan and be given a standing ovation by his appreciative new "friends."
Only there would Thomas' father, as a crane pulls his car from the bottom of the pool, offer Thomas grudging respect.
"I literally didn't think you had this in you," he says.
Thomas knows he'll have to face a litany of criminal charges. He's squandered his college money and bankrupted his parents. His mother, he says, can't stop crying. His future is shot, and he admits he'll probably never outlive the disaster he wreaked in one ill-advised night. And yet, he turns to his father and says, "It was awesome."
No one in this story dies from alcohol poisoning or a drunk driving accident, as tens of thousands of people do each year. No one dies or is hospitalized due to the ingestion of Ecstasy, as also happens. Sure, the party spawned several unexpected high school pregnancies and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage … but what party worth its salt (the film tells us) doesn't? And before the credits roll we see Costa—interviewed by a local television station—crassly invite the pretty journalist to attend his next party.
There's a lot to try to forget about a movie like this—images I'd like to scrub from my mind. But there's one picture I don't think I should: It's Thomas on the rooftop, screaming at the sky—looking for all the world like a lost little boy who knows this isn't a happy ending … and has simply stopped caring.