He's now famous for being married to Sarah-Jessica Parker and for taking Broadway by storm in 'The Producers'. But there was a time when Matthew Broderick was best known for playing cocky teenagers - this in spite of the fact that he didn't even make his movie debut until he'd turned 21. Already something a stage veteran (he first worked on the New York stage aged 17) by the time he came to Hollywood, it was Broderick's good fortune that his boyishness allowed him to play well beneath his years. So while he was 22 when he threatened global security in War Games and 24 when he starred in John Hughes's Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Broderick had notched up his quarter century when he was cast in Project X
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan the year before he made the rather more controversial The Accused, Project X is the story of Jimmy Garrett (Broderick), a military inductee who's placed in charge of the chimps who're being used in the titular experiment. Naturally, Garrett grows close to his simian chums and it's not long before he and his young friend Teri (Hunt, still some years away from becoming a bona fide star) are hatching a plan to allow the apes to escape.
A film that harks back to the age when teen entertainment meant little violent action and even less swearing, Project X is as likeable as it is insubstantial. Indeed, it rather resembles the BBC kids' dramas that used to play between five o'clock and 'The Clangers'.
With a script by producer Lawrence Lasker, who'd previously written War Games, this pleasing picture features a strong bad guy in The Shawshank Redemption's William Sadler and a decent sidekick in the young Helen Hunt. However, Project X ultimately belongs to Matthew Broderick, since not only is he very good in the film, but the picture also marks the last time he'd play significantly below his real age. As such, Project X is a fitting swansong for an actor who was prepared to play to his strengths long after the time when most young performers would have been desperate to play meatier roles.