A scene from 'Slackers'
Courtesy Photo
*1/2 stars 87 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, February 1, 2002
Directed by Dewey Nicks

Starring Jason Schwartzman, James King, Devon Sawa, Laura Prepon, Michael C. Maronna, Jason Segel, Daniel Spink

Cameo: Cameron Diaz, Gina Gershon

Read our interview with Jason Schwartzman Interview with actor Jason Schwartzman


Any laughs this movie has will be greatly diminished by not watching it with an audience. As bad as it was in the theater, it will be worst at home.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 05.28.2002


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College comedy 'Slackers' tries to disguise its trite central story in a deluge of deliberate bad taste

By Rob Blackwelder

Trying to disguise the fact that "Slackers" is really just a paint-by-numbers, boys-will-be-boys college comedy, first-time director Dewey Nicks slathers the flick in Tom Green-style bad taste outrageousness as its misogynistic cool jerk hero (Devon Sawa) lies his way into the bed of the generically gorgeous sweetheart.

A sampling of the movie's let's-see-what-we-can-get-away-with gags: Dave (Sawa) gets orally serviced by his girlfriend's horny middle-aged mom. The girlfriend's comedically creepy stalker does the same for a 70-year-old woman in a hospital bed. Three characters masturbate on screen, one of whom makes a puppet out of his privates in one of many scenes that have nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with pushing the envelope.

If that's the kind of thing you want to pay $8 or $9 to see, then be my guest. If you expect more than bottom-feeder humor from your multiplex experience, then "Slackers" is one frustrating film because buried within these dregs of humor are some audacious comedic gems.

The wholly contrived plot involves a university student mega-dork who calls himself "Cool Ethan" (Jason Schwartzman from "Rushmore") discovering a massive cheating scam run by Dave and his wacky dormmates. Ethan threatens to expose the guys unless they help him score with Angela (James King, "Pearl Harbor"), the prettiest girl in school -- a nearly impossible task because Ethan could make anyone's skin crawl.

This guy isn't just a dork -- he's a borderline psychopath who has an all-consuming obsession with Angela. His dorm room is a candle-lit and panty-filled shrine that includes a perpetually looping video Ethan made of the girl on the sly. He even carries a hair doll made from strands he lint-brushes off her chair at the end of every class they share.

Schwartzman's fearlessly repellent performance -- as bizarrely funny as it is disturbing -- is the one thing that prevents "Slackers" from being just another pointlessly sexist comedy like "Tomcats" or "Saving Silverman." There's no sweet side to this guy that Angela might fall for if she only got to know him. Like Jim Carrey in "The Cable Guy," Schwartzman makes Ethan abrasive, aggressive, unrelenting, hyperactive, socially inept and full of ill-advised impulses he never filters. He proudly sports a mono-brow and a Mr. Spock hairstyle, and he never removes his backpack, which is so weighed down with junk it throws him off balance when he walks -- something he does as if he has a permanent wedgie.

Of course, in the process of "helping" Ethan, Dave falls for Angela and feeds her all kinds of fibs so he can play both sides against the middle -- thus counteracting all Schwartzman's efforts with more lame conventionality.

If Dewey Nicks really wanted to do something fresh, he should have gone for the only happy ending possible -- that Angela gets the heck away from both these swine. But instead he sticks to a formulaic outline while serving up side-dishes of Schwartzman's idiosyncrasy and a handful of oddball fantasy sequences (the cheaters imagine themselves as superheroes, rap stars and Peter Pan).

It's clear that somewhere in the evolution of "Slackers" a burst of creativity occurred, the intent of which seems to have been an admirable one: to kick a little dust off the tiresome college comedy genre. But how about starting with a more original story instead of just slapping extreme humor and gross-out gags on top of the same old crap?


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