Put religion in retreat, erode ethics and let materialism run rampant, and what kind of entertainment will you get? The short answer is "Project X" (Warner Bros.).
More troubling than mere trash, and pornographic in a way that goes well beyond its frequent displays of flesh, this profoundly irresponsible undertaking — a would-be comedy — concerns three Los Angeles teens: meek, easily misled Thomas (Thomas Mann), overweight nebbish JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and pleased-with-himself provocateur Costa (Oliver Cooper).
Desperate to become popular and, of course, to have animalistic sex with random strangers, the trio throws a decadent party that eventually morphs into a destructive riot. That last word is not used metaphorically. The proceedings — which we're supposed to be viewing through the camera of another adolescent, gloomy Goth Dax (Dax Flame) — eventually involve a flamethrower, a fire department helicopter and a police SWAT team.
The outcome of it all? Not only do the lads gain the admiration of their high school peers, at least one of their parents, surveying the devastation they've wrought the morning after, implicitly congratulates his son, whom he had earlier labeled a loser.
If that sounds harsh, it's because the only bond of affection that means anything to these characters is that which unites Thomas and his dog. Naturally, Thomas is also given a love interest in the person of his friend-turned-hook-up-partner Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But Thomas' capability for committed relationship building seems to run about as deep as Kirby's diaphanous good looks.
Still, Thomas is at least marginally sympathetic. Not so the leering, acerbic Costa. Though he makes reference, in passing, to his Jewish heritage, Costa is the embodiment of neopagan barbarism — a swilling, drug-loving 18-year-old lout anxious to pillage and fornicate, if not rape, his way through Left Coast suburbia.
Indeed, taken as a whole, Nima Nourizadeh's first feature serves as a collective portrait of soulless, over-privileged zombies wandering a world of sterile secularism, enslaved by their basest passions. As such, it's anything but funny; in reality, it's grotesquely tragic.
The film contains perverted values; strong sexual content, including voyeurism, underage casual sex and same-sex kissing as well as upper female and rear nudity; drug use; a few instances of profanity; and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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