You can read my review of Project X here.
I'd apologize for beating a dead horse, but this horse was a real dickbag, okay? As I was whining about being forced to see Project X Tuesday night, Devin attempted to placate me by telling me that the movie was written by Michael Bacall, of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and 21 Jump Street fame. Clearly, Scott Pilgrim is a brilliant, charming, pitch-perfect adaptation, but I want to focus on 21 Jump Street because that film is much closer in tone and concept to Project X.
Both movies feature a (former or current) high school nerd trying to vanquish his loser birthright. Both movies focus on an oft-codependent friendship between men. Both movies come to a head at an outrageously unlikely high school party. But where Project X is nasty, base and mean-spirited, 21 Jump Street is sweet. This isn't a movie that gets its laughs from animal cruelty, shoving dwarves into ovens or calling women ugly - all of which passes for humor in Project X. 21 Jump Street is the funniest movie I've seen in ages, and it nails its humor by gently poking fun at our leads' stupidity or through zany hijinks. The only demographic to get repeatedly chaffed in this film are smug white environmentalists, and we're a hearty people that can take the ridicule.
Walking out of 21 Jump Street, which I saw the night before Project X, I was most struck by the warmth of the film. It's a movie with a heart that beats kindly through all of the absurdity. The women in it are cool; they're smart and clothed and respected by our leads. The guys, while morons, are good people who treat each other and others well. How can this movie - and Scott Pilgrim, which does every honorable service to the strong female characters written by Bryan Lee O'Malley - be written by the same guy who wrote Project X?
Granted, I'm sure Bacall, co-writer Matt Drake and director Nima Nourizadeh will say that the film is written from the perspective of an angry, overlooked teen boy and doesn't reflect their own views. But Project X isn't an outsiders' perspective of one misguided group. It's a celebration of that perspective. I simply don't believe that a screenwriter can write a film that uses the word "bitch" that frequently - said by protagonists whom we are surely meant to support - without being culpable for that sentiment at least in part. Bacall, Drake, Nourizadeh and of course producer Todd Phillips are all responsible for the message in Project X, and the message is execrable.
I just wish more of these boys' club movies would take a page out of 21 Jump Street's book - or Superbad's, or Knocked Up's. Dudes will be dudes, and that's okay, because most of the dudes I know are fun, accountable, hilarious and most importantly good people. I don't want infallible protagonists and I'm no prude; I like nudity and drugs and violence as much as the next guy and often much more. I'd simply like to believe despite some box office evidence to the contrary that most of America would rather watch good people do dumb shit and learn from it, than terrible people doing terrible shit and being rewarded for it.
Cut out the stupid, racist, homophobic, sexist bullshit and actually learn to write a fucking joke. All of that hateful crap is just a shortcut to getting a laugh from red-staters, and what upsets me is that Bacall has proven he's better than that. I can only hope Project X was the result of a temporary brain tumor or that the 5% of jokes that weren't repugnant belonged to him and he washed his hands of the rest; otherwise, he's done a great disservice to the rest of his work with this cheap garbage.