by Eric D. Snider
Released: July 21, 2000
Allow me to be one of dozens of critics to say that "Loser" is both a title AND a review for this film. (There. Aren't I clever?)
The title character -- and the most likable person in the movie -- is Paul Tannek (Jason Biggs), a Midwesterner who gets a scholarship to an unnamed New York City university. We are shown in quick montage that he doesn't fit in, mainly because he studies a lot and is slightly clumsy.
His three roommates, Chris (Thomas Sadoski), Noah (Jimmi Simpson) and Adam (Zak Orth), who in truth are the real losers, slipping drugs in girls' drinks at parties so they'll be more susceptible to their sexual advances, are the ones most critical of Paul. To that end, they get him kicked out of the dorm, and he winds up living in a veterinarian's office.
Meanwhile, we meet Paul's classmate, the slightly Goth-chick Dora Diamond (Mina Suvari), who likes Paul somewhat but is having a secret (not to mention oily, creepy and unsettling) affair with their teacher, Professor Alcott (a smarmy Greg Kinnear). Paul and Dora wind up spending a few days together, though, when she almost OD's on the libido trio's secret drugs and has to crash at Paul's vet pad for a few days to recover.
In theory, this is a romantic comedy. It succeeds mildly on the "romantic" part, as Suvari and Biggs have some degree of chemistry together. But their story is so bland, and the circumstances of their coming together so contrived and lame, that it fails to elicit any emotion in the viewer whatsoever.
And the "comedy" part -- forget it, buster. Who would have thought David Spade would be the funniest part of a movie, but sure enough, he is, in his one-minute cameo as a video store clerk. That was the only time I laughed throughout the entire film. And lest you think I'm just a jaded film critic, you should have heard the rest of the audience, too. It was like watching a sitcom with the laugh track removed. The actors seemed to be expecting laughter, but the laughter was not forthcoming.
Jason Biggs is the movie's only redeeming quality. The young man is a talented actor, with an unassuming charm, affable demeanor, and great skill in performing comedy. Even he doesn't seem to realize how stupefyingly terrible this movie is, as it he gives it his all, without ever over-playing the situation. Despite the presence of many talented actors (except for Greg Kinnear), it is Biggs alone who prevents you from fully despising the movie. Gosh darn it, he's just so nice, and his character so likable, that you really, really want to like "Loser." But you can't. Trust me, you can't.
Rated PG-13, scattered profanities, including one F-word; drug use; some sexual discussion
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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