The new movie “Project X” — which arrives in theaters today with the blessing of producer and party-movie master Todd Phillips — follows a familiar plotline: A bunch of kids throw a bash while a friend’s parents are out of town, and alcohol- and drug-induced bedlam ensues.
Apparently it’s not much of a plot, really; as the Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan notes in his review : “It’s the longest Facebook video posting you’ve ever sat through.” (Critics in general are not wild about “Project X,” which currently possesses a 26 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
But certainly the concept is one with which we are all familiar because of one decade: the 1980s. If raucous party scenes had a golden era, that era occurred in the years between 1980 and 1990, when authority and propriety were often violated by ragers who knew how to throw killer keggers.
During my film-reviewing colleague Tim Gordon’s “Keeping It Real With Film Gordon” podcast yesterday, we chatted about the most excellent party movies ever, mentioning several that came after the MTV Decade, including “Old School,” “Superbad,” “Can’t Hardly Wait” and my personal favorite, “Dazed and Confused.” (For the record, yes, there were plenty that came before the ’80s, too, most notably “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”)
Still, something about the excess of the ’80s lent itself to more memorable party scenes, perhaps, than during any other 10-year time period. Here are five notable ones, which I share with the caveat that none of the behavior in these ’80s party scenes is condoned by Celebritology, with the possible exception of making John Cusack key master.
5. “Revenge of the Nerds”
By now, we all know that there ain’t no party like a nerd party because a nerd party just don’t stop. But in 1984, this was an amusing, almost affirming idea, as well as an excellent excuse to see a pre-“30-something” Timothy Busfield grind his hips to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
4. “Say Anything...”
This post-graduation bash gave Diane Court (Ione Skye) the opportunity to actually talk to her classmates; Corey (Lili Taylor) the chance to perform the epic ode to clueless exes, “Joe Lies,” which totally could and should have been covered in the 1990s by Liz Phair; and Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) the responsibility of serving as key master. Yes, this Cameron Crowe-directed film may have been the only teen comedy that made a point of ensuring that no underagers drove drunk.
3. “16 Candles”
“Jake’s parents aren’t home. We could do his house.”
With those crucial words from Caroline Mumford, an epic John Hughes party erupted at Jake Ryan’s place, one where Caroline’s (Haviland Morris) hair was hacked off after getting caught in a door; the Ryans’ entire suburban Illinois residence got trashed, complete with pizza pies spinning on the turn table; Long Duk Dong and his sexy girlfriend did weird things on an exercise bike; and Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) was imprisoned underneath a glass coffee table. And yet the best part of the party scene is the aftermath, when Ted mixes a martini and confidently counsels the ’80s Lord of All Things Hotness, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), about women. (“Games, Jake. Silly, torturous games.”)
2. “Bachelor Party”
Before Tom Hanks became the most respectable movie star in Hollywood, he starred in this very silly but, in its way, classic ’80s party movie in which a pre-wedding celebration gets completely out-of-control. Like, out of control in a horses-doing-cocaine kind of way.
1. “Risky Business”
This is probably the ultimate ’80s party movie because it had all the crucial elements — out-of-town parents, an ambitious teen (Tom Cruise) dipping his toes into rebellious waters and, of course, plenty of debauchery — but took those elements to a whole other level. Joel Goodson didn’t just throw a party, he turned his house into a brothel that, uh, wasn’t quite Ivy League. In the process, this movie also gave us the quintessential “let’s party” catch phrase: “Sometimes you just gotta say, what the [bleep]?”
What’s your favorite ’80s movie party scene? Weigh in by posting a comment.