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Forget 'Slackers,' rent 'Rushmore'

Photo courtesy of Screen Gems

Angela (James King), left, with her geeky pursuer, Ethan (Jason Schwartzman) in the new movie "Slackers." The film opens in theaters today.

By Jessica Suarez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Feb 1, 2002


There's a movie with Jason Schwartzman in which he plays a socially inept kid who falls in love with a beautiful girl. Schwartzman sends someone else to try to get her to like him (Schwartzman), but the plan backfires, and the beautiful girl falls for the messenger.

That movie was called "Rushmore," and was one of the best movies of the '90s.

But Schwartzman, who hasn't made many movies since "Rushmore," wasted his Dustin Hoffman-esque delivery and beautiful, thick eyebrows on "Slackers" - another teen gross-out comedy that doesn't have one-hundredth the charm of "Rushmore."

The basic plot is the same: Schwartzman plays a lovesick social outsider. But in "Slackers," he's just too creepy to invite any sympathy. For example, in "Rushmore," Schwartzman plans to build an aquarium in his love's honor. In "Slackers," Schwartzman spills hot candle wax over his genitals and masturbates to a hair doll in his love's honor. While both might make the object of your affection uncomfortable, only one of them is going to make them take out a restraining order.

In "Slackers," Schwartzman plays "Cool Ethan," a geek who finds out that three other students are running a scam that guarantees them near-perfect grades. Ethan blackmails one of the guys, Dave (Devon Sawa), into helping him get the attention of Angela (James King), a girl he's in love with. Dave falls in love with Angela, too, and he has to decide whether to fulfill his end of the deal and avoid being expelled or stay with Angela and get busted.

Compared to other teen movies, "Slackers" doesn't fare too badly. In terms of humor, it places somewhere between "American Pie 2" and "Scary Movie 2." In fact, scientifically, it probably contains the exact arithmetical average of the number of all blowjob, masturbation and fart jokes from every '90s teen movie combined.

Scenes of depravity are thrown in, although they have little to do with the plot. At one point, someone sings a duet with a sock puppet covering his penis. It's just that bad.

Stretches of mediocrity aside, there are times where "Slackers" isn't so bad. When the writing is good, Schwartzman is excellent. Sure, there are other characters in the movie: King is appropriately bland and beautiful, Sawa is little more than a sort-of nice slacker, and that one guy from Nickelodeon's "Pete and Pete" farts a lot. Schwartzman, however, is the obvious focus of the movie, and the only one that can sometimes pull off the gross and disturbing humor that pervades "Slackers."

But it's a thin line between outsider-with-a-crush and state-certified violent sexual predator, and Schwartzman happily masturbates his way across that line. Despite a high tolerance for gross-out movies, even ones featuring coprophilia (an abnormal interest in feces) among other -philias, "Slackers" was still a somewhat uncomfortable experience.

So, to avoid the doubly uncomfortable experience of being grossed-out and seeing a bad movie, go rent "Rushmore" instead. In fact, with the money typically spent on a first-run movie, one could probably rent "Rushmore" three or four times. It'll be worth it.


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