We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
A purported teen comedy should not leave you with Memento-sized questions. OK, so maybe the plot developments in Slackers aren’t quite as puzzling—and you definitely won’t be spending as much time talking about them afterward—but you’d expect a losers-on-campus farce to be pretty straightforward. The slackers in question are three allegedly smart guys who scam their way through college by cheating on tests, faking injuries, and manipulating the power grid. The group is threatened with expulsion when leader Dave (Devon Sawa) is caught hitting on the lovely Angela (James King) by Angela’s obsessed admirer, Ethan (Jason Schwartzman, so far fallen from Rushmore). Ethan, armed with a stolen test adorned with Dave’s handwritten name and phone number, blackmails Dave into helping him win Angela’s heart. The information that Dave and his friends dig up on Angela helps Ethan become a more successful stalker, transforming him from what-a-loser obsessed to full-fucking weird, but complications arise as Dave gets—sigh—a little too close. It’s when Dave 180s into “But I love her!” mode and his friends suddenly take a “Dude, your love is worth our expulsion” attitude that things really stop making sense. At barely 90 minutes, Slackers is embarrassingly undeveloped and just plain boring, with uninspired humor (including one gag, an older woman hitting on a young man, played twice with different characters) and bad acting (King’s tearless sobbing is as funny as anything else in the movie). Schwartzman is the film’s only near-highlight, playing the hell out of his psycho-nerd role to the point where his last-ditch “You can’t have her—I own her!” line is actually pretty scary. But to discuss whether Slackers was meant to be scary is as pointless as, well, the entire movie. —Tricia Olszewski