For me, Slackers wasn't a poor film, but it wasn't, by far, the greatest comedy ever written. I am basing this fact on the "laugh" factor. For a reason that I cannot explain, I found myself mildly entertained by this film. I don't know if it was the constantly changing tone of the film, or the fact that Schwartzman pulled the comedy off with the greatest of skills, but this meager film critic found some value in this little off-beat comedy. I will have to whole-heartedly agree with other critics that Slackers was cliché, random, and at times, very very dull, but overall it seemed to fit. I have found quite a bit of articles comparing this film to the infamous American Pie movie, but to me, it seemed more like a less-nudity, less-bodily gas humor version of Animal House. The intelligence skirted around this film, at times entering in it providing one or two great moments, but overall it couldn't counter the random blandness that seemed to further creep in, surpassing the greatness.
I think we should begin with the good of this film, because again, it is what stood out greater in the scheme of it all. Jason Schwartzman. Bar none he carried this film. From his random songs, the great scenes in which he "volunteers" with Angela, and his well-celebrated hair doll, Schwartzman was funny. In fact, as you watch this film, one could say that in each scene Jason is honored to be in, he dominates them. His lines are not just perfect, but his mannerisms seem to also accentuate his character very well. Schwartzman is worth the price of the rental alone. Outside of me just drooling on Jason's character "Cool Ethan", I thought that the sporadic (and need I say random) way that this film was actually filmed, with the "Magic Number" relapse, the true way to help Ethan find a girl, and the singing sock of which that is all I believe I can say. These enjoyable interjections made Slackers a bit more unique. I wasn't expecting this level of satire for such a small film. It felt like director Dewey Nicks did his comedy homework. He knew how to make some people laugh. Now, I am not saying that he graduated from Comedy College, but he did finish his homework early as well as do the extra credit.
Jason Schwartzman was phenomenal in this film, but those that accompanied him deserve some respect as well. While I think that Devon Sawa was struggling in this film (see next paragraph), his co-conspirators held their own. Jason Segel reminded me of a young Ken Marino, just not as funny) and Michael C. Maronna had a funny bit or two. Laura Prepon, of That 70s Show fame, added some flair to the duller moments, but seemed more like eye-candy than any sort of actual actor value. The hair doll was an odd, yet fun element. I don't want to drool over Schwartzman in this entire review, but it was entire do to him that this film did not fail in my eyes. He was short, spastic, and completely unappreciated by other critics. This was one of those small films that allowed Schwartzman to fully grow and demonstrate his humorous ability. I could go on for some time, but I have to discuss the ultimate pitfalls of this film.
Slackers was funny, but it wasn't great. I don't think I could bear to watch a second time. While I previously drooled over the amazing comic ability of Schwartzman, he could not match the downfalls of this film. There was not visible plot. There was a very cliché storyline that could be viewed in nearly every other film of this genre, but nothing that immediately stood out. While I did just mention how amazing the one to four humorous imaginative scenes were (thus making it a memorable film not just forgettable), there were plenty of faulty scenes that followed. I would have to criticize Jaime King for her very poor acting in this film. She was purely placed in Slackers to advance the story, nothing more, nothing less. Her lines were wooden, her character was trite, and nothing was appealing about her in the least. She attempted some comedy, but obviously could not handle the talent that surrounded her. The same could be said about the ending of this film. While I did think that it wrapped up decently well (for a comedy college film), there were increasingly more random moments (one featuring Cameron Diaz) and less actual character development. I wasn't expecting a character driven story here, but I was expecting to know this trio a bit more. I would have loved some history on "Cool Ethan" and his demonic love for Angela. I felt that everything suddenly situated at the end of the school year. Why couldn't we have seen Ethan's passion for Angela grow instead of tossed directly in our faces? I just seemed that Nicks should have expanded his comedy segments, developed a funnier story with Ethan, and given us a stronger female lead, and he would have had a keeper of a film. Instead, he force-fed us mediocrity, until we could not do anything but enjoy it.
Overall, I liked Slackers for trying to break the genre norm. Did it succeed in being imaginative and original? My answer world be "no", but it did give over 100% in trying. For those wanting to see Schwartzman roots, this would be a great place to start. I will agree that he was playing from his Rushmore character a bit to much, but I didn't mind. He was out of the box and insane at all the right places, bringing some much needed chuckles to the film. I would recommend it to friends, but not as more than a one-night viewing. It definitely had some potential, director Nicks just chose not to exploit it.
Grade: *** out of *****
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