Hollywood is obsessed. It is obsessed with the “boy meets girl; gets girl after some elaborate ploy; falls in love just in time for his secrets to be revealed; then goes to great lengths to get her back” storyline.
The newly released “Slackers” is no different.
The film hails its tagline to draw in the college audience with, “when all else fails … cheat.” Indeed, the characters Dave (Devon Sawa), Sam (Jason Segel) and Jeff (Michael C. Maronna) have staked their friendship on the sole passion of cheating their way through college. Their plans, of course, are spoiled when the nerdy, quirky and quite insane Ethan (Jason Schwartzman) catches Dave in one of his schemes and threatens the trio with expulsion from the university.
Ethan’s blackmailing directs the three friends to getting him a girl, most specifically Angela, played by James King. But, of course, she falls in love with one of the slackers.
In all of the action that follows in their scheming to get the girl, including fantasy episodes of cheesy three-seat bicycle rides and strange S&M situations, it’s a range of emotions from amused to disgusted. One minute the audience is laughing at Sam’s episode with a FedEx truck supposedly breaking his tibula. Then the crowd is cringing at Ethan’s hair doll, made entirely by strands of Angela’s hair that he’s collected with a lint brush.
The comedy concerning the three friends is enjoyable, considering much of the comments and actual situations surrounding the friendship had happened to the filmmakers throughout their youth.
The characters bring a bit of familiarity of past college movie characters. Sam, the understated, calm and collected slacker is complemented by oddball Jeff. James King gives the topic of adoration a friendly face and persona. Laura Pepron’s Reanna is successful as Angela’s lewd, indiscrete roommate.
And concerning Schwartzman’s Ethan, the head Physics T.A. sums it up best in one of the final scenes: “I think you’re a freak.”
Of all the performances – including Sawa’s charming Dave – it’s Ethan that holds the audience’s attention with his exaggerated facial expressions and inability to say the f-word. Schwartzman first gathered audience attention in Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore,” playing much of the same peculiar, stalker character. He’s had practice at being so wacky, and it shows.
The movie teeters on the fine line of the freakishly funny and the plain old freaky in much the same fashion as “American Pie” and “Road Trip,” to name a few. As a college film aimed for the college class, it scores with its laughs and eccentric characters. But any content beyond that is absent.