Rated R - Running Time: 1:27 - Released 2/1/02

Teen sex comedies can be made or broken by their casts, and although Dewey Nicks's film Slackers is not exactly the best quality entertainment one could hope for, it's certainly better than it could (and probably should) have been. It's got funny moments, great-looking girls, and plenty of suggested sex, and hey, what else can you hope for from this kind of flick? Director Nicks, a former fashion photographer making his directorial debut, at least knows how to make his talent look good, and that's one-third of the battle. The second third is cast performance, and this is probably the film's best aspect, with the joyously irreverent interaction of several twentysomethings most of us have at least seen somewhere before. The final third is, of course, writing. The fact that this is only the sophomore effort of screenwriter David H. Steinberg (after co-writing last summer's American Pie 2) is another reason we should be surprised that this film is not an absolute bomb. Isn't it a pity when the best words a film critic can say about a movie are "not an absolute bomb"?

This movie revolves around the undying loyalty of a trio of college ne'er-do-wells, Dave (Devon Sawa, Final Destination), Sam (Jason Segel, Freaks And Geeks), and Jeff (Michael C. Maronna, displaying the kind of quirky charm that made his appearance in that Ameritrade commercial so funny for the first 500 times, until it just got annoying). Over the years, these guys have become experts at every kind of cheating, and their genius has not failed them in college. In the opening sequence, they conspire on a wildly intricate scheme to get the answers of a mid term exam at the seat of their higher education, Holden University. Although the plan goes off perfectly, one little slip-up by Dave leaves the door open for a vengeful geek named Ethan (Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore) to implicate the three. Determined to save themselves from expulsion, the guys make a deal with Ethan. If he will keep quiet about the scam, they'll hook him up with Angela (James King—yes, her name is "James"), the hottest girl in school, whom he has been stalking all year, filling his dorm room with pictures of her, various personal effects he has stolen, and a doll he has fashioned out of individual strands of her sweet-smelling hair. The trouble is, Dave kind of likes Angela himself, and she kind of likes him back. So while Sam and Jeff do everything they can to snag her for Ethan, Dave and Angela fall in love.

For a non-violent movie like this to get an R rating, you know it has to have tons of obscene language and T&A, and it does, with those elements doing their best to flavor what is otherwise and rather bland and uninspired enterprise. But director Nicks knows he's not doing an Oscar-winner here; this film is built on raunchy comedy and college-age guy humor. It's no better than average, but at least these guys know what works, and there are a few surprises, like a good-natured cameo by Cameron Diaz, lampooning the trashy image she's famous for.

Besides the lively interaction of the cast, this film is helped by some interestingly unconventional musical selections, including an orchestral version of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" (performed by the London Symphony Orchestra), a choral version of the Ace Of Base hit "The Sign," and a version of "3 Is A Magic Number" (one of my personal favorites from the '70s Multiplication Rock cartoon series), by Blind Melon. These are not songs you hear every day. While Slackers is strictly disposable and eminently rentable material, one can't deny the palpable sense of fun in the delivery. ***

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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