Slackers

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“Slackers” is sometimes almost surrealistically crude. It’s as if filmmakers have stopped trying to out-sex each other and have opted for out-weirding each other instead. I think that’s a step in the right direction; at least weirdness is occasionally funny, which sexuality usually isn’t.

This film, directed by Dewey Nicks and written by David H. Steinberg, both first-timers, is about cheating your way through college. Specifically, a trio of seniors at Holden University have developed cheating to a science, arguably expending more effort on not working than they would on actually working. They are the smooth-talking ladies’ man Dave (Devon Sawa), the mildly crazy Jeff (Michael C. Maronna) and the fairly stoned Sam (Jason Segel).

While stealing an exam for Sam, Dave encounters Angela (James King), whom he is smitten with. However, he is also caught at cheating by Ethan (Jason Schwartzman), a loutish loser who is psychotically fixated on Angela. In exchange for not having Dave, Sam and Jeff expelled, Ethan wants them to win Angela’s love for him, creating a dilemma for Dave, who wants her for himself.

So it’s one con job after another as the trio tries to find information on Angela to help Ethan woo her, eventually switching to seeking dirt on Ethan himself to reverse-blackmail him.

It’s fitfully amusing, though wildly inconsistent. It’s gross-out comedy one minute, teen romance the next, bawdy sex farce another. Some jokes will make you either laugh or wince, depending on your tolerance for bizarre sexual behavior. (I thought a scene with Angela’s parents was hysterical, but Angela’s roommate’s behavior was embarrassing. Your mileage may vary.)

Devon Sawa has enough baby-fat charisma to play better roles than this, and James King (I don’t know why her name is James when she’s a woman) could do well for herself, too. Jason Schwartzman is basically reprising his “Rushmore” character, but he’s increased the twitchy obsessiveness and diminished any possibility of liking him. It works in this case to have his character so laugh-out-loud annoying and unsympathetic, but it may not be a wise career choice to continue pursuing this type of role.

“Slackers” comes perilously close to being stupid all the time, but it has some genuinely creative moments, too. A scene where Dave has an epiphany accompanied by an a cappella rendering of “The Sign” by Ace of Base borders on being ingenious. The simple fact is, I laughed more than not-laughed at the movie — a fact I’m almost embarrassed to admit.

B- (; R, lots of harsh profanity, a scene of nudity, some strong sexuality and crude dialogue.)

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