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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 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 Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Writer/director Amy Heckerling, whose last film was 1995's delightful CLUELESS, is back this time with LOSER, which is two movies at war with each other. One is a lame teen comedy that you've seen a hundred times before, but the other is a cute romantic comedy about a love triangle. They get roughly equal screen time, which makes viewing LOSER alternately frustrating and enjoyable.

New college student Paul (Jason Biggs from AMERICAN PIE) is featured in both parts of the story. Paul, who wears a ridiculous hat, is a clumsy "loser" whom nobody likes. Actually, of course, he is the nicest person in the movie. He studies hard while his roommates drink heavily and slip date-rape drugs to their girls. For his nerdiness, his "friends" treat him like dirt and haze him at every opportunity. There is little fresh material in any of these episodes, and the less said about them, the better.

Thankfully, there is another part to the film. In it there is a love triangle involving Paul and the girl he loves, Dora (Mena Suvari from AMERICAN BEAUTY). Dora, who is as cute as a button, is trying hard to make it through college by working as a waitress in a questionable nightclub. In order to make ends meet, she eats things like those little free containers of milk and of honey. Suvari, who was so alluring but catty in AMERICAN BEAUTY, is wonderfully likeable this time, even if her character seems to be going for the wrong guy.

Dora doesn't realize that Paul loves her even though he takes care of her when she's sick and hangs out with her. Her heart beats for the handsome college professor, Edward Alcott, with whom she is having an affair while taking his English Literature class. As a sarcastic bastard, Professor Alcott, Greg Kinnear (Oscar nominee for AS GOOD AS IT GETS) gives the show its bite. The professor is an anal-retentive type who is deeply in love -- with himself. He couldn't care less about Dora, although she conveniently provides him sex, as well as tea made to his precise and demanding requirements.

Dora, who, after being fired as a waitress, thinks her biggest problem is a lack of employment, finally finds an unusual way to make money without working. We can see, however, that her real difficulty is her entanglement with Professor Alcott and her obliviousness to Paul's love. There aren't many surprises in this part of the story, but at least it has characters worth caring about or, in the case of the professor, sneering at. Now if we could just have seen an edited version with the canonical teen comedy parts deleted -- that would be a movie worth recommending.

LOSER runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for sexuality, language, drug and alcohol abuse and mature themes and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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