Loser (2000) — More clueless than Clueless

“Do you think you could turn it down just a skotch?”

Andie’s rating: 5 out of 5 skotches

Andie’s review: Before I tell you what I thought of this movie, a word of advice: never ever ever let your friends try to tell you that Loser looks stupid and you should rent Boys and Girls. Because Boys and Girls sucks big-time. It was excruciating to watch.

Loser is a cute little comedy about a small town boy named Paul (Jason Biggs) who goes off to college at NYU. There he meets this cool girl named Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari) and they become friends. He takes care of her and is always there for her and is really sweet. But she’s sleeping with their lit professor, mean Professor Alcott (Greg Kinnear). He also has to deal with these three loser roommates, Chris, Noah and Adam, who are yucky and inconsiderate and treat him like crap. If I had been him, I would’ve shaved my roommates eyebrows one night while they were passed out from drinking too much, just so they would know I’m not a girl to mess with. But I digress.

What makes this movie so great is that it’s not really your typical romantic comedy. I mean, of course you know they’re going to get together. But you don’t often find a main character who is just so adorable and sweet that you love him right away. He actually uses the word “skotch.” As in “Could you move over just a skotch?” And in the very first scene, you see Paul slipping the money his grandpa tries to give him back in his grandpa’s pocket. And then you see him dancing with his sister. It’s just so cute!

Dora is also very cool. She shows Paul how to have a great night out in New York City without spending a dime, which is my idea of a great date. And Greg Kinear does a good job at being a slimebucket. I prefer him when he’s nice, but he played his character really well. All in all this is a very entertaining movie that both girls and guys really enjoy. Go see it. And don’t ever rent Boys and Girls because even if you like the story (which I did) the ending will ruin it for you because it’s horrible and contrived and schmaltzy.

Justin’s rating: If I’m a loser, at least that means you’re all winners! Yay!

Justin’s review: Loser is an excellent example of how easy it is to fall prey to media hype and expectations. The trailers and commercials were genuinely funny — I know I laughed nearly every time they came on. Then we got Amy Heckerling as director, who has brought us such comedy classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless. And this looked a LOT like Clueless-with-a-guy, which was all right with me. Finally, both Jason Biggs (American Pie) and Mena Suvari (American Beauty) hopped on board, and it seemed like a sealed deal for me. Loser was destined to be a sleeper hit of 2000, and I would be first in line.

Yet, how Loser managed to bungle all the assets it had going for it, I can’t imagine. For instance, remember all those great jokes in the trailer? A result of creative editing (cutting actual movie scenes shorter or splicing in bits from two scenes together to create “one” joke) and out-of-context references. The jokes were funny in the trailer, because it looked to be poking fun of what a loser is; the jokes in the movie turn out to be remarkably mean-spirited and without any pretense of actual humor. They’re just barbs thrown to hurt and tear.

Midwesterner Paul (Biggs) mistakenly assumes that NYC would be a peachy place for one such as him to attend college. He’s a fish out of water, and stands out for all his tacky wardrobe (fluffy earflap hats, like what my friend Lance used to wear) and farmer boy sayings. Because, as movies have taught us, being from the Midwest is uncool. Cough. His new roommates don’t just dislike him; they refuse to help him acclimate and actively work to cast him out.

Paul ends up living and working at a vet clinic, which I feel would be a terrific place to bunk for four years of college. Fleas and Frats. He then bumbles around college attempting to inspire hilarity, but for the most part it just made me wince as I realize that Jason Biggs was wasted. It’s just really sad… he never fights back until the very end, and even then it’s pretty useless. He’s as sympathetic as the bad guys, which is to say, not at all.

Paul, the stereotypical Nice Guy, falls for “edgy” and “out of control” Dora (Suvari). You know Dora is fringe, because she has enough makeup to romantically attract raccoons, and she likes the band Everclear. YES! Everclear! The Band of Rebels! Dora’s got relationship issues, as she is sleeping with her professor (Greg Kinnear, who hasn’t played a nice guy since As Good As It Gets) and cannot see what a huge jerk he is. Remember, he’s not a FUNNY jerk, he’s just a jerk. Naturally, a platonic relationship between Paul and Dora shows potential, except that she won’t stop being manipulated by her very special professor, and he won’t stop being nice no matter what. It’s kinda like an abuse food chain: The Professor treats Dora like crud, Dora walks all over Paul’s feelings, and Paul (probably) sticks gerbils into a microwave late at night.

I scarcely need to tell you what happens in the end, but it is important to point out that the road to this romantic bliss is paved with date rape drugs. That’s right, dial Date Rape for hilarity! It seems that some of Paul’s former roommates like to slip drugs into girls’ drinks to lower inhibitions. When Dora gets a blast of these drugs and nearly overdoses, well! I was rolling in the aisles! Comedy hit of the year, my Italian posterior!

Loser doesn’t exactly end as much as come to an unsatisfying stop. Heckerling tries to use subtitles to refer to the fate of each individual, which is as filling as low-cal rice cakes. In movies, don’t TELL us, SHOW us. All in all, don’t buy into the hype that Loser has something to offer you. It’s not really that funny, and it contains all shades of pain that are not wrapped up by the film’s conclusion.

Kyle’s rating: This is more clueless than Clueless!

Kyle’s review: I don’t really take the advice of professional so-called “critics” except when it comes to large pills that I’m supposed to “take” in order to cure “athlete’s foot.” In those cases, I’ll read the fine print. But with films, the biggest effect a bile-filled negative review o’ hate can have against a movie is make me decide to view it as a rental or cable film instead of seeing it in the theater. Loser was such a movie. It was lambasted by plenty of people when it was released, and although some people loved it I felt it was unworthy of my big screen dollars. Now, sitting here writing about the films months and months after I saw it on cable for the first and last time, I wonder if by watching it, I have condemned my soul to eternal darkness. That’s how fiendishly monkey-skinning-ly bad Loser is. Why did I watch this film?

In a way, it’s not that bad. Stupid story about stupid characters doing stupid things, with good winning out in the end not because it necessarily outwitted or outplayed the bad, but because in the world of Loser goodness is eventually rewarded while bad faces cue card justice. But, as Justin mentioned, it’s not enough to show “bad” having a good old time the entire movie, and then at the end we find out down the road that “bad” gets theirs in the end. How long does “bad” stay on the gravy train till they get kicked into the flaming yam juice pits? Am I hungry? Why is Thanksgiving on my mind? Why can’t good play dirty to beat bad? Am I using archetypal references correctly? What would Jung say?

But the absolute worst part of Loser is that it’s a grand paradox. It seems like a lot of talent and effort went into this film. Yet it is awful. So where did all the talent and effort go? Was it somehow channeled and funneled backwards in time, to give a little extra “oomph!” to The Godfather and Fletch? Was it sent forward to hover over future films and give them a little spark of greatness? Why did fate decree Loser would be left as an empty shell of a film? Why are good, kind-hearted people (in films, at least) always portrayed as unwilling to adapt or move forward unless they reach a crisis of faith? I just don’t get it. And what’s with that hat thing? Disgusting.

On the one hand, I don’t think anyone should ever watch Loser ever, unless you have to so you don’t have to lie to anyone involved in the film when they ask for your opinion and/or details. But if you do watch it, you’ll be okay. You’ll just feel empty inside for a while, like a great void has infected your soul. But you’ll get over it. Eventually. It helps to write a review telling others not to see Loser, I can tell you that much. Maybe now I can sleep at night. Whew! Never see Loser! Yes! I feel better already! Woo hoo!

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