Slackers (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/05/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 86 mins

Better-than-average-but-still-not-that-good teen movie that comes across as a sort of Rushmore meets Porky’s - it’s elevated into watchability thanks to the presence of Jason Schwartzman and some inspired off-the-wall moments amongst the smutty gags.

Slackers has suffered the dual ignominies of both a series of title changes (it was originally called Hooking Up Ethan) and having its release date repeatedly put back. It’s a curious film since, on the one hand, there’s a fair amount of wit and invention in amongst the smutty gags, and on the other, it never really comes together the way it should.

Devon Sawa (from Final Destination) plays Dave, a college slacker who spends his time figuring out elaborate scams to avoid doing any work, aided and abetted by his two best friends (including Jason Segel from TV’s superlative Freaks & Geeks).

However, when Dave makes the mistake of leaving his phone number on an incriminating test paper, they find themselves at the mercy of weirdo Ethan (Jason Schwartzman, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola), who blackmails them into helping him pull the girl of his dreams, Angela (model-turned-actress James King). There’s just one slight problem – Dave has fallen for Angela too…

The opening of the movie is brimming with nice touches, such as the montage of the three slackers growing up and the initial scam set-ups. Unfortunately, director Nicks fails to sustain that level of pace and invention for the rest of the film, though there are some deliriously bonkers off-the-wall moments later on, including a jaw-dropping cameo from an impressively ‘game for a laugh’ major movie star. (Oh, alright – it’s Cameron Diaz).

What makes the film interesting (and ultimately elevates it into watchability) is Schwartzman’s portrayal of the self-styled “Cool Ethan”. Ethan is very similar to Max Fischer, the character Schwartzman played in Wes Anderson’s cult film Rushmore – both are loners, both are, in some way, geniuses, and both are in love with an unattainable woman and yet determined not to lose hope.

The difference is that you’re not supposed to like Ethan, although in truth, whenever he’s offscreen, you’re waiting for him to turn up again. Essentially, you find yourself rooting for a stalker, and it’s to Schwartzman’s credit that he pulls that off, regardless of what the director’s intention was. The multi-talented Schwartzman’s contributions don’t end there, as he also sings two original songs in the film.

The support cast are very good, particularly King, who has no trouble enabling audiences to see where Ethan is coming from (though whether you’ll be compelled to make dolls from her hair or shave your chest hair into an “A” is another matter).

There’s also good support from That 70’s Show's Laura Prepon as Angela’s sexed-up room-mate and a shockingly tasteless cameo from 70 year-old 50’s blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, whose well-preserved breasts somehow end up getting a tongue bath from Schwartzman…

In short, though Slackers is occasionally tasteless, uneven and unfunny, it remains watchable thanks to Schwartzman’s dependably insane performance and the odd inspired moment.

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Slackers (15)
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Content updated: 18/12/2017 11:02

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