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Loser

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Loser

Starring: Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari
Director: Amy Heckerling
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Comedy, Romance


*Also starring: Greg Kinnear, Tom Sadoski, Zak Orth, Jimmi Simpson, Twink Caplan



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

If there's one bit of advice that every father should give to his son--counsel even more important than a talk on the birds and the bees--it's how to make friends. In the new movie "Loser," the titular character's dad (Dan Aykroyd) tells his college-bound son, Paul (Jason Biggs) that the most important way to do this is to be interested. When the person you're talking to sees that you are attentive to what he has to say, he will consider you to be interesting. This is not original advice and in civilized locales, this would work. But "Loser" does not take place in a civilized location. The movie is set in New York City and what's more the site is a large college, probably NYU. Paul, who comes from an easy-going, small community and who has won a full scholarship to this big city institution, finds out from the very first day that dad's advice may not be counterproductive: it's just that nobody will talk to him. Why not? Probably because he conveys the impression that he's a nice guy and as country mouse learns about city mouse a couple of months into his college education, "This whole city is one big orgy and if you care about someone, you're a chump."

"Loser," which is directed by Amy Heckerling (whose "Clueless" is about a young woman whose sophisticated character is diametrically opposite Paul's), may be predictable and overly sweet, but after a steady stream of mostly good movies that try to outdo one another in vulgarity ("American Pie," "South Park," "Me, Myself and Irene") the picture is a welcome change as mid-summer approaches--so long as we don't get a steady stream of cuddly little tales that could as soon pass muster on TV shows like "Friends." The screenplay, also by Ms. Heckerling, does not feature a whole lot of bon mots, but in the tradition of the cinema the villain--in this case a handsome, smart, but charmingly sarcastic professor--gets the best lines.

By way of comparison, Jim Carrey's character, Charles, finds out in "Me, Myself and Irene" that being nice is not all that it's cracked up to be. If you're congenial, you'll be taken advantage of, your sweetness all the more tempting to those who'd eat you for breakfast. In this case, Paul's warm and geeky hat may be suitable for Fargo, North Dakota but is as out of place in the Big Apple as his nerdy haircut. When he meets the adorable Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari) who sits next to him in European Lit., he's hooked, but Dora has eyes only for her comely professor, Edward Alcott (Greg Kinnear), who sometimes treats her almost as badly as Paul is treated by his rich, snotty, and altogether too hip roommates Adam (Zak Orth), Chris (Tom Sadoski) and Noah (Jimmi Simpson). When Paul eventually takes up residence in a veterinary hospital, his fair-weather pals talk him into letting them use the facility for a bash at which they pass out the infamous date-rape pills to naive and trusting co-eds. The greater part of the film deals with Paul's uphill battle to prove that you can be decent without being a doormat.

Jason Biggs, well cast here (he's the fella who last year mistook an apple pie for a sexy woman), turns in a fine performance as the guy who never loses his congeniality but does become a bit stonier in his ways under the pressures of his first year at college while Mena Suvari, who could pass for a young Liza Minelli, is amiable enough. Greg Kinnear as the elitist professor stands out: he's the sort who would have the populists, especially the young people, in the audience hissing, but I like the guy. He stands firm in his championship of the best and brightest and is appropriately ticked off when he discovers that virtually nobody in his 160- member lecture class has read the Kafka assignment or has understood the text enough to deal with the principal theme. When he visits a museum with his co-ed, he appropriate patronizes her for thinking that there is nothing particularly more beautiful about a Van Gogh or Greek column than there is in, say, some Christmas decorations.

"Loser" is a date movie suitable for dates who can appreciate "American Pie" as much as I do but still like to indulge themselves in a confection which proves that a kid from the sticks can make it in New York without giving up his decency.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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