USA 2001
director : Dewey Nicks
script : David H Steinberg
cinematography : James R Bagdonas
lead actors : Devon Sawa, Jason Schwartzman, James King, Michael C Maronna
86 minutes

There were many terrific things about Wes Anderson’s 1999 Rushmore, not least the performance by Jason Schwartzman as the lovesick, slightly demented high-schooler Max Fischer. Now Schwartzman returns in Slackers – as the lovesick, very demented university student Ethan. But while Rushmore was thoroughly original, Slackers is depressingly derivative, an opportunistic variation on the clapped-out gross-out.

Max Fischer, for all his bizarre behaviour, somehow remained sympathetic, but a little bit of Ethan goes a very long way. Thankfully, he isn’t the lead this time around. That honour falls to Sawa as Dave, one of a trios of immoral lazybones (Maronna, Jason Segel), is determined to scam and cheat their way through college. Ethan accidentally rumbles their schemes, and blackmails them into helping him win the affections of delectable Angela (King) – who, of course, only has eyes for Dave.

Despite the title, these devious lads are anything but ‘Slackers’ – the picture was called ‘Cheaters’ until a US TV movie got there first with the same name. Slackers, as well as not fitting the material, is too easy to confuse with Hackers, Sneakers, Slacker and Sleepers – typical of the project’s general lack of imagination. The basic premise isn’t so terrible, but the script rapidly loses steam, and there’s precious little creative input from the director despite opening titles which pompously announce ‘A DEWEY NICKS FILM.’

Cult sixties pinup Mamie Van Doren pops up in an unexpected cameo, and there are fleeting appearances from Cameron Diaz and the up-for-anything Gina Gershon, but the real trump card is Sawa, a very un-Hollywood-looking Canadian bloke propelled to prominence by the unexpected success of last year’s critically-underrated Final Destination. He’s an engaging goofy-jock comic actor, and does his best to compensate for the behind-the-camera deficiencies, not to mention the increasingly desperate, sub-Lee Evans clowning of his real-life best mate Schwartzman. Close, but no Dude Where’s My Car. Actually, not even close.

15th October, 2001
(seen Oct-5-01, UGC Parrs Wood, Manchester)

by Neil Young
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