Project X sets the teen sex comedy aflame

Thomas Mann and company are burning down the house party.

In its rather sweet-natured though foul-mouthed celebration of adolescent hedonism, Project X lurches forward on a bass-heavy, alcohol-fueled journey toward that timeless pursuit: pussy. With its raunchy humor, profane defiance of authority and tongue-wagging worship of the female form, this is very much a typical teen sex romp/comedy. What isn’t typical is how far Project X pushes past the conventions of its genre while still managing, by its end, to seem tame.

The Hangover director Todd Phillips executive produces here, and both films share the same basic disposition: a fascination with those moments of pleasure and notoriety that might cost one a tooth. Or self-respect. Or in this case, a neighborhood block.

The seeds of mayhem are planted when three geeky high school friends decide to throw a gonzo house party at the Pasadena, Calif., home of the birthday boy, Thomas (Thomas Mann). Much of this prologue is obvious shtick, including the protective, soon-to-be-out-of-town parents laying down the ground rules for their mild-mannered son. As the party’s chief instigator and organizer, Costa (Oliver Cooper) is this Project’s id, a force of uncensored lust and desire. He’s the film’s alpha geek, a sweater-vest-wearing loudmouth whose relentless shit-talking and daring provide much of the film’s laughs.

Once the party goes into effect, Project X's conceit — that its events are being filmed by a friend with a handheld camera — proves its worth. The gimmick captures the dizzied tunnel vision and dulled senses of a drunk. With its multiple close-ups of fine asses, Project X is an unabashed celebration of women as objects of male lust. What’s missing is the sense of alienation that comes from drifting intoxicated through a crowd of strange faces, bearing witness to those nocturnal compromises that engender both envy and pity.

Eventually, Project X goes so far to extremes that it blunts the edge of its danger. In succumbing to its own need to be outrageous, the film renders the thought of consequences for its three leads almost meaningless. Fortunately for viewers, the comedic antics never let up. Even as Project X assaults the senses with a continuous montage of booty shaking, beer chugging and lips locking, it indulges with giddy delight our inner juvenile.

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