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Dustin's Review
Slackers (2002)
1 Star

Directed by Dewey Nicks
Cast: Devon Sawa, Jason Schwartzman, James King, Michael C. Maronna, Jason Segel, Laura Prepon, Mamie Van Doren, Cameron Diaz, Gina Gershon.
2002 – 87 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for sexual content, language, nudity, and brief drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 3, 2002.

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.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman