A penis sock puppet. The graphic sponge bath of a 70-year-old. A girl
who masturbates even while a stranger is walking through her dorm
room. A boy who is given a blow job behind a bar by a middle-aged
housewife, while her husband cluelessly has a conversation with him.
The raunchy concepts of these scenes, I assure you, is far more amusing
than seeing them played out in "Slackers," an abysmal college comedy
that achieves a groan-to-laugh ratio of roughly 200-to-2.
The movie, directed by first-timer Dewey Nicks, wants to be a sweet
romance and a gross-out gagfest. This tricky feat may have been achieved
with great success in 1999's "American Pie" and 2001's "American Pie
2," but the writing was sharp, the characters were lovable, and the
lewd moments were made funny by the successful comic timing. The outrageousness
in "Slackers" fails miserably nearly every time because these random
scenes that come out of nowhere do not serve any purpose within the
context of the story. It also doesn't help that director Nicks demonstrates
about as much expertise behind the camera as a blind bat.
Dave (Devon Sawa) and his buddies, Jeff (Michael C. Maronna), and
Sam (Jason Segel), are nearing the final quarter of their last year
of college without having ever taken an exam they didn't cheat on.
Their top-secret, convoluted operations usually include stealing the
blue exam booklets, sitting in on an earlier class, and then copying
the questions down for their own class. Their illegal doings are spotted
by an obnoxious geek nicknamed Cool Ethan (Jason Schwartzman), who
blackmails them into setting him up with the beautiful Angela (James
King), the girl he is obsessed with to the point of having created
a doll out of her hair. Complications ensue when Dave ends up falling
for Angela himself, and must decide whether his feelings for her are
important enough to risk getting expelled.
Written by David H. Steinberg without any idea of how to form a logical
premise or set up characters resembling human beings, "Slackers" is
rotten to the core. The so-called "teen" genre would seem to be an
easy one to work within, as the stories do not necessarily have to
be groundbreaking and all that is asked of them is that they entertain.
"Slackers" isn't groundbreaking, so Nicks and Steinberg got that part
right, but the film is also far from fun to sit through. One scene
after the next plays out with no seeming cohesion or notability, and
the only character that is even remotely likable (Angela) is also presented as flighty.
The romance between Dave and Angela is not much better, eliciting
the kind of sparks that come from a car violently slamming into a
metal railing. David has cheated his way through not only school,
but life, and as much as we are supposed to grow to care about him,
he doesn't even remotely warm up to the audience. Devon Sawa (2000's
"Final Destination") has been given a ham-fisted character to work
with and, under the restrictions of this flat screenplay, no actor
of any level of talent could have made it work. James King (2001's
"Pearl Harbor") is easy on the eyes, which is about the only quality
she has going for her as Angela. As for Jason Schwartzman, he appears
to have simply carried over his character from 1998's incendiary "Rushmore,"
but made him more psychotic and annoying. Finally, there is an odd-as-hell
cameo from Cameron Diaz (2001's "Vanilla Sky"), who I can only reason
agreed to appear because she lost an unfortunate bet.
To all those that hated 2001's Tom Green vehicle, "Freddy Got Fingered,"
I've got news for you: it is a towering, epic achievement in modern
moviemaking in comparison to the hideous "Slackers." Save for a single
sequence that works refreshingly well (played to a lovely choral rendition
of "The Sign," by Ace of Base), the picture is about as ineptly made
as a big studio release gets. Even the cinematography is ugly-looking
and underlit. After 87 painfully unfunny minutes of "Slackers," you'll
be begging for the type of mercy that only comes with the start of the end credits.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman