Trying to prove that their finger is perpetually on the pulse of the young adult populous, 30-something marketing spin doctors give you yet another college flick. Granted, I saw “Slackers” at the five o’clock showing, but three days after its release the house was nearly empty with only me and four other poor fools. I was somewhat obligated to stay in my seat, but wondered why the rest didn’t leave after 20 minutes.
The previews should have been fair warning of the impending parade of crap (The new Ice Cube vehicle “All About The Benjamins” followed by “Rollerball”). The screen was clearly defining the demographic of a “Slackers” moviegoer: Gangsta’-rap savvy, weed-smoking suburbanites with a passion for blood, guts and Rebecca Romijn’s rack – in other words, our great nation’s future captains of industry.
The story revolves around three friends – Dave, Sam and Jeff – in the twilight of their college careers with an academic history precariously founded on elaborate scheming. In one of their last cheating attempts, Dave (Devon Sawa) leaves his name and number on an exam for the girl sitting next to him. The evidence that could get them all expelled falls into the hands of a spastic and psychotic dork, the self-deluded “Cool Ethan” (Jason Schwartzman). Ethan, who is walking female repellent blackmails the three friends into devising a plan to win the affections of the beautiful coed with whom he is obsessed, Angela (James King).
As happenstance would have it, Angela is the same girl Dave had left his number for. (Can you see where this is going?) With no other choice, our three lovable scamps agree to Ethan’s terms. Dave befriends the girl so that he can get close and talk up Ethan, while Sam and Jeff compile a dossier on her likes and dislikes in order to turn Ethan into Angela’s perfect guy. But as Dave gets closer, he predictably falls for the girl himself and his loyalty to his friends is put at odds with newfound love.
Not only cheap in substance, “Slackers” must have been inexpensive to make. All the actors are relative unknowns. Perhaps the producers should have put their nine heads together to dole out some cash for a decent writer. Screenwriter David Steinberg’s apparent goal was to cover predictability with a constant barrage of poorly crafted lowbrow comedy. Gross-out and sex jokes hold nothing back. Without subtlety or development, they go straight for the punch line. The trade-off of spectacle for effort leads to these symptoms of a bad movie: chatter, groans, aversion of eyes and a turning of the stomach.
As I watched Schwartzman, I couldn’t help but remember his Max Fisher character from “Rushmore,” another unrequited obsessed teenager. In that film, we can laugh at ease with his awkward eccentricities because they stem from the same healthy neurosis possessed of a normal person. Cool Ethan, on the other hand, is everything conceivably abnormal: a shrine-erecting stalker who covets and counsels a doll made of his beloved’s hair – he is a freakish specimen.
But is the freakish Cool Ethan so unlike you and me? I would like to think so. But although we go to a university that draws the top 12.5 percent of all high school students, I personally have seen equal and worse comedy and behavior from my classmates. But they, in a drunk-on-jungle-juice stupor, have an excuse. More importantly, they pay for it with a hangover and as the subjects of ridicule.