Slacking in humor

Slackers

Directed by Dewey Nicks

Starring Jason Schwartzman, James King and Laura Prepon

R

Don’t let Jason Schwartzman seduce you. While his return to the screen after his impressive debut in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore has been a long time coming, his role in Slackers has none of the charm or pathos of Rushmore’s protagonist, Max Fischer. But he sure tries.

Set at a private university weeks before graduation, Slackers centers around master cheaters Dave, Sam and Jeff as they execute the last elaborate scams of their college careers. When Cool Ethan (Schwartzman) catches Dave (Devan Sawa) in the act, he agrees not to expose their intricate web of academic fraud if Dave, Sam and Jeff will do one thing for him: help him get the girl. The girl is Angela, played ineffectually by James King, and the psychotic, shrine-worshipping, underwear-stealing Ethan is obsessed with her.

But Slackers is nothing if not brutally predictable. In his attempt to get Angela to fall for Ethan, Dave — gasp! — falls for her! Hang on, there’s more. Angela conveniently realizes she’s in love with Dave, elevating Ethan’s psychosis. Ethan tells Angela all about the scam. Angela hits Dave in the mouth and cuddles up with Ethan. Dave obnoxiously demonstrates his love for her and they kiss in front of lots of people. End of movie.

Slackers is not without its moral high ground, though. Just as Dave turns himself in for Angela, Sam (Jason Segel) and Jeff (Michael C. Maronna) come clean too. They are immediately expelled, forcing them to fabricate diplomas and host a rousing end-of-the-year party, complete with beer, gowns and caps, and plenty of T&A. That’s right kids, cheating will get you everywhere.

The problem with Slackers is that it doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. The wit and quirk factor brought to the production by Schwartzman is entirely thwarted by a limp, hapless love story impossible to give a damn about and several gross-out scenes meant to shock and offend. They do neither. These scenes, including female masturbation (no! you don’t say!) and a singing penis, are just weird. But not ha ha weird. More like I want my $7.50 back weird.

Slackers does have a few redeeming features. The orchestral version of The Who’s Teenage Wasteland during the opening credits is invigorating. A hilariously realistic physics TA should strike a chord with any college student. And Schwartzman’s out-of-control eyebrows are mesmerizing. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hypnotically convince me that Slackers is a good movie.

-Lora Barstad

 

Slackers is at area theaters.