LOS ANGELES — "Project X" follows one wild night as a group of high school outcasts throw an epic bash, one they hope will make them popular. Watching other people getting a little out of hand on screen makes you wish you could be there, too — you can enjoy yourself vicariously without suffering through a hangover the next day. Here's a look at five great movie parties. You don't even have to RSVP — just come as you are:
"Animal House" (1978): It is, of course, the gold standard. When I was in school, every fraternity wanted to reach such heights of hedonism (or depths, depending on your perspective). But they could never match the men of Delta Tau Chi. They are, as you well know, the worst house at Faber College. So just when they're on the verge of being kicked off campus for their horrendous grades and various other offenses, they do the only thing they can do: throw a toga party. Yes, "Shout" is massively overplayed by now — you hear it at every bar mitzvah and accounting firm holiday party — but seeing Otis Day and the Knights perform it in this gleefully debauched setting was perfect.
"Sixteen Candles" (1984): The quintessential John Hughes movie bash — the kind of party that only happens in the movies, where high school kids from every level of the social hierarchy get together to trash some ridiculous mansion. ("Project X" similarly aims for this kind of egalitarian spirit.) This is a party where anything can and does happen, where a geek (Anthony Michael Hall) can befriend the studliest guy in school and wind up taking the prom queen home. Even the politically incorrect Long Duk Dong gets lucky with his new-style American girlfriend.
"Bachelor Party" (1984): A grossly underappreciated early Tom Hanks film and a neat little time capsule. Tawny Kitaen! Adrian Zmed! All that big hair! Good times. "Bachelor Party" is inappropriate in the ways "Project X" only aspires to be — or at least it seemed that way at the time. Pimps and prostitutes, nuns and cross-dressers, strippers with sex toys, hot dogs that aren't really hot dogs — they all collide over the course of this delightfully weird film. And it's a great reminder of Hanks' comic roots; he does just the right balance of silly and smart-alecky.
"Revenge of the Nerds" (1984): This was a good year for these kinds of movies, apparently; perhaps it was the ostentatious excess of the era that made wild bashes like these make sense. They were a reflection of who we were, or at least who we wanted to be — even if we were nerds. The misfits who come together to form a makeshift fraternity try hard to throw a party that will impress the leaders of the traditionally black Lambda Lambda Lambda, the only national group that will consider giving them a charter. Things aren't going so well at first — a shrill violin performance, an accordion sing-along — but when Booger busts out the wonderjoints, the nerds and the equally awkward Omega Mus have no trouble throwing down. An '80s classic.
"Dave Chappelle's Block Party" (2006): The comic took over part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn for a concert featuring an all-star lineup including Kanye West, The Roots and the reunited Fugees. But the whole film has an innocent, cheery, let's-put-on-a-show vibe about it. A surprisingly straightforward documentary from director Michel Gondry, it's part concert, part stand-up routine, part neighborhood get-together. Chappelle is the hilarious, ebullient force of nature at the center, making everyone feel welcome and functioning as the world's coolest party planner.