I'm beginning to think the term "found footage movie" has lost all meaning.
Once upon a time, we could at least pretend these things were real. Sure, there's a witch out in those woods! Didn't you see that shaky, poorly framed shot of little kids' hands or whatever? What more proof do you need? That thing's no fake. It pretty much looks just like a home movie of your kids. But with slightly more snot.
For the most part, these earlier movies were restrained to footage from a single camera. Recently, some have expanded their found footage rules to include "anything that could also have reasonably been shot by bystanders with phones, news crews, etc." Fair enough.
In the new teen comedy Project X, now this wide-ranging footage shows significant post-production work, too. I don't think that's really a "found footage" movie. I think that's just a "movie."
Teenager Thomas Mann's parents are going out of town for the weekend, and while he's promised to be good, best friend Oliver Cooper has other ideas. Like throwing a party so huge all the kids at school will look at them in a totally new light.
At first, it looks like no one's going to bother to show up. But once the guests start to pile in, the party threatens to wreck Mann's whole house.
That has the sound of something with potential. We all like parties, right? Loud, boisterous things where it's impossible to hear anyone else speak, which is just as well, because the girls won't talk to you anyway. Well, that calls for more of whatever is in this bottle someone left on the ground. Maybe it's a potion! Pretty soon, fluids are everywhere, and oh look, you appear to have fallen down a stairwell.
Big parties are pretty chaotic. It's no surprise that party movies tend to be, too. But even by the lax, boozy standards of such things, Project X doesn't have much of a story. Or characters. Mann is a dork of unknown vintage. Maybe he likes dragons a little too much. Perhaps he stares at girls when he thinks they're not looking, but they totally know and have told all their friends. We never find that out, though.
Cooper, meanwhile, is profane, obnoxious and not nearly as hip as he thinks he is. Kind of like a Jonah Hill minus the ability to make people laugh. Which in turn is kind of like a dose of poison minus the nifty vial. That should make them feel good about themselves!
The story's development is no better. It's shooting for a Ferris Bueller-style arc of "uptight teen learns to loosen up by destroying his father's car" with a bit of Superbad's "and here's how I learned to talk to girls" thrown in for good measure. The problem is screenwriter Michael Bacall has so far shown no ability to write characters who don't deserve to be crushed under a giant shoe. Or who have any recognizably human emotions.
Oh yeah, and Bacall can't write comedy, either. You know what Project X's big racy, crazy joke is? A midget punching people in the balls. You see, it's funny because he's a midget. And balls. That's the ultimate problem here. Not the little person, I mean. He's probably cool. But that we have a comedy with very few laughs.
So sure, I could criticize Project X for being a "found footage" movie that inexplicably features slow-motion and a soundtrack. I could say it's like an R-rated MTV Spring Break project whose only redeeming feature is two preteen security guards who feel like they've been kidnapped from a much better movie. But Project X isn't funny. That's bad news.