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Slackers is a 2002 romantic comedy film directed by Dewey Nicks and stars Jason Schwartzman, Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, and Michael Maronna. Dave Goodwin (Devon Sawa), Sam Schecter (Jason Segel), and Jeff Davis (Michael Maronna) are best friends who spent almost four years at Holden University scamming their way through college, and for the most part, get away with it. Just as they are about to graduate, their schemes are foiled by Ethan Dulles (Jason Schwartzman), the campus geek, after witnessing Dave cheating on an exam. Ethan threatens to expose the trio unless they try to hook him up with his dream girl, the beautiful Angela Patton (Jaime King). Critics panned the film; it has a 11% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Slackers opened at #11 in the box office with $2,785,283, the highest-grossing opening film of the weekend, and lasted only two weeks in theaters before it closed on February 14, 2002, with a domestic total of $5,285,941 and $1,127,974 internationally, for a worldwide total of $6,413,915. Philip French commented that "Slackers makes American Pie look like The Importance of Being Earnest.
And that's because the main protagonists are not slackers at all -- in fact, they're a trio of heady, hard-working college cheaters. Beginning with an elaborate scam that actually gives the movie some potential, we are introduced to our leads (Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, and Michael C. Maronna) as they simultaneously shoot video of the women's cross-country team, steal a physics exam, and fake getting hit by a truck. But screenwriter David H. Steinberg (story writer on American Pie 2) tries building an entire feature based on one decent scenario. And he, as well as the rest of us, are in some deep trouble for the remainder of the 87 minutes.
Within that time, we get a weak premise (school loser blackmails cheaters in order to get girl -- somebody call Freddie Freakin' Prinze Jr.), coated in some of the most stupidly gratuitous and vacuous sight gags, and wrapped sloppily in a romance that's about as honest and touching as Clinton's Lewinski testimony. Slackers' most egregious problem, through all of this, is in assuming that bawdy, raunchy humor is always funny just because it exists. How untrue.
How many knockoff attempts of There's Something About Mary must we suffer (including those by the Farrellys themselves)? To drop some sleazy whore in a hospital bed just so Jason Schwartzman can fondle her breasts is not funny on its own -- it needs to have some relation to the rest of the movie to make us laugh. Maybe we need James King's character to warn Schwartzman's (posing as a hospital volunteer) that the horny hussy always requests sponge baths. Instead, we just get a 14-year-old's twisted wet dream. There's nothing humorous in the look, script, or editing. Instead of a funny kind of a gross, we get a make-your-genitalia-shrink kind of gross.
As for the aforementioned Schwartzman, this is about as far as he could fall since his bold debut in Rushmore (1997). As the psychotic Ethan, he still gets a chance to deal his character a little demented creativity, but his attempts live on their own island, as the rest of the movie fails both him and the role. He'll be appearing later this year in Andrew Niccol's Gattaca follow-up, Simone, so redemption in choosing parts could be just around the corner.
And Schwartzman's not the only cast member nearly wasted throughout this film (no, not that kind of wasted). Anyone interested in seeing Slackers will recognize the main players, making it all the more disappointing when the movie splats. Sawa had the lead in the wickedly silly Final Destination, Segel was the lovesick Nick Andopolis on Freaks and Geeks and plays Eric on Fox's Undeclared, and Maronna practically had his own fan club as Stuart, the guy in the Ameritrade commercials. They enter in the opening scene, build the audience's confidence in knowing that these guys have ability, and then get reduced to fart jokes. Bad fart jokes.
The press material for Slackers calls it 'daring'. If distributor Screen Gems thinks 'daring' means a guy talking through his penis as a sock puppet when no one's around, well so be it. But 'daring' should really be used to define the folks who tempt the fates by actually buying tickets to this movie, and then sitting through it.
Slackers, bondage freaks, whatever.