John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Project X

Genre: Comedy

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Cast: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: March 2nd, 2012

In the 2010 drama Cyrus, hospital writer/director team Jay and Mark Duplass created a uniquely odd familial situation. With three quirky main characters, view that story was strangely endearing and oddly entertaining.

The Duplass brothers attempt to create another sympathetic family unit in Jeff, erectile Who Lives at Home but their latest falls flat without the depth of its predecessor.

Jason Segel plays Jeff, an overgrown slacker who spends his days in his mother’s basement, getting high and wasting his life. Mom (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t understand him, and his brother Pat (Ed Helms) doesn’t respect him. But like so many other cinematic drug users, Jeff serves as the free-spirited protagonist.

As the story begins, Jeff is talking about watching the film Signs the previous evening. The screening has led him to believe there are subtle signs in life that will guide him on the right path. It might be the drugs talking, but Jeff goes on a journey to find these signs and follow them wherever they lead.

Unlike most people, though, these signs dictate — from one moment to another — Jeff’s actions along the way.

But Jeff’s sign searching isn’t enough for his mother, who urges him to partake in another, more humble journey. She wants him to go to the store to buy wood glue to fix a door in their home. Along the way Jeff meets up with his brother and discovers that his sister-in-law (Judy Greer) may be having an affair.

The brothers investigate the possibility, chasing after Pat’s possibly duplicitous wife. In the meantime, the boys’ mother finds herself receiving online messages from a co-worker who admits to having a crush on her.

This simplistic plot could work, but it would need to introduce the characters at the beginning and cause the audience to care about their plight. In Jeff, few such moments occur. For instance, Pat’s relationship with his wife is defined in a short scene where Pat informs her that he bought a car — with money they don’t have — and she gets upset.

From there, the audience is supposed to care about their relationship. I never did.

Jeff is hindered by its 83-minute running time. With many movies, length is an issue because storytellers sometimes don’t know where to stop. Here, the sense is the Duplass brothers didn’t know where to begin.

The film’s disparate elements never feel like they belong together, and the emotions that carry this story through its second half often ring false. And that’s the problem with Jeff. The characters aren’t compelling and the story never feels true. And the preposterous ending where everything casually collides could leave viewers rolling their eyes.

“What if there’s no wrong numbers?” Jeff asks in the midst of the story.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home qualifies as neither a right number or a wrong one. It’s more of a dial tone than a complete call.
Project X, sales the new comedy from the producer of The Hangover, pill
is a difficult film to review. Its emphasis on crude humor and outrageous potty jokes can be offensive at times. And for anyone over 35, ed I would never recommend this film.

Its appeal – as it is – will likely interest college students and people in their twenties looking for a fun, carefree time at the theater. And as someone within that small demographic, I enjoyed Project X for what it is:  a politically-incorrect, outrageous movie about a group of high school geeks attempting to host a massive house party.

“He’s not exactly Mr. Popular,” one of the geek’s fathers states early in the film about his son. That, in a way, sums up the character’s motivations. This is a story about three male friends hosting a birthday party so that they can finally become popular.

The party is for Thomas ( Thomas Mann) but unfortunately for the birthday boy, it’s going to be hosted at Thomas’ own home. (Of course, a better birthday present from one of the friends would have been them hosting it elsewhere.)  Thomas’ friends are the obnoxious Costa (Oliver Cooper) and the dorky JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown). Costa, it should be noted, is the type of friend who you enjoy spending five minutes a day with. Beyond that, he’s the guy you would cross the street to avoid.

Costa is Ferris Bueller if you take away the charm, smarts and charisma. And if you made him a complete jerk.

The first half of the film leads up to the party itself as the three teens plan out the event. The teens repel the check-out lady at the local grocery store and later get into a major altercation with a known drug dealer. These scenes recall the comedic sensibilities of The Hangover.

The party itself should – in such a story – be the film’s highlight. Instead, it is the film’s downfall. The Hangover, for all of its flaws, never became serious. Yes, it was about a group of guys drinking the night away and accidentally taking drugs that made them forget everything about the night before, but it never became a serious film about drug abuse. When the teens in Project X take drugs, the scenes aren’t played for comedic effect. They simply exist and instead of laughing with the characters, I found myself taking pity on them – a terrible feeling to have in what is supposed to be a carefree film about a party gone wild.

Luckily, the film roars back in its final third, with a few funny sequences that lighten the mood. The epilogue – detailing the character’s future endeavors – is worth a few chuckles itself.

There are times while watching this film I thought it wasn’t suitable for a recommendation. The party sequences are dull and redundant and the character of Costa is so annoying that I wanted Thomas to leave him in the dust. Or at least tie balloons to him and send him off into outer space.

But the film is worthwhile for the comedic moments at the beginning and end. This is a movie that college kids and men and women in their twenties can enjoy while reminiscing about their own party experiences. For everyone else, stay away from Project X. It‘s a party that you shouldn’t be offended by if no one invites you. In two months, no one will remember it anyway.

Review by: John Hanlon