Slackers (2002) — A cinematic lobotomy

“Ethan, what is this? A hair doll?”

Rich’s rating: This. Film. Sucks.

Rich’s review: You know, some ideas at their conception can seem both sensible and innocent. You commit yourself to them, follow them through, and just as soon as you’ve got used to it, when there’s no way you can back out, that’s when someone comes along and takes your perfectly innocent idea, twists it into a monstrosity from which there is no possible escape and sends your faith in other people crashing to oblivion as you’re left mercilessly twisting in the wind by dark-hearted people who laugh pitilessly at your plight.

Or that could just be me; I don’t know. Regardless, I’m referring to the genius idea of mine to review films chosen by the denizens of our forum at a rate of one per month. The first two months were harmless; after a close call with From Justin To Kelly (fortunately unavailable here in the UK), January’s Rollerball, and February’s The Gift were both inoffensive and interesting films I watched and actually enjoyed.

Then came March, with forum regular Macaroni & Death (where to these kids get their crazy names from?). If only it had been different; but no, cruel fate selected M&D to step to the plate, and he railed the ball right through my face before I could even swing, by picking the abomination of celluloid some people call Slackers. So, here’s to you buddy. Thanks a million.

The worst thing about this pick wasn’t that the film was an utter waste of its 86-minute running time; no, the worst thing was that I’d seen this film before. I’d rented it blind from Blockbuster one night, and been so appalled I’d stopped three quarters of the way through the film. So now, not only did I have to review this muck, I had to go back to Blockbuster to rent it again, just to watch the last 20 minutes.

So, as I sat there, seethingly subjecting myself to this cinematic equivalent of a full frontal lobotomy, I resolved to say not a single positive thing about this film, and to make it completely clear to absolutely everyone reading this review that a night spent having your toenails forcibly extracted with a pair or pliers by the finest torturers in the former KGB while being subjected to an endless audio loop of white noise intercut with commercials for long distance calling plans would be a happier and more entertaining evening than any amount of time at all spent watching Slackers.

The concept for this bilious outpouring is a twist on the popular college/teen comedy cliché “Geek arranges for help from popular classmates to get attractive girl.” The twist being that absolutely every main character is so gut wrenchingly irritating that I spent long chucks of the time hoping for something permanent and fatal to happen to them. In a grudging bow to journalistic integrity, however, I’ll try to give you a plot outline unclouded by my utter despite of this film.

So, three buddies, the titular Slackers, spend the majority of their time at college coming up with ways to avoid having to do work. That all of their schemes actually involve more preparation and execution than actually studying for the exams they are avoiding or cheating on is neither here or there, I guess. The trouble begins when one of their schemes is detected by school super-nerd Ethan, who uses his knowledge of their scheme to blackmail them to helping him “get” class hotty Angela.

However, Ethan messes up every scheme they concoct by being quite simply the least likable character to appear in what alleges to be a comedy film, and in the meantime (and this is an oh-so-shocking spoiler, so if you really want to watch this bilge, look away now) Slacker Dave falls for Angela for real, setting up a conflict of interest between the three slackers. There, that’s as nice as I’m gonna get in this review; I’m getting back to hating right now.

Of course, it’s all the fault of Hollywood, as Hollywood is nothing if not faddish. When a film of a certain genre comes out of left field to make big bucks, you can guarantee that six to twelve months later, there’ll be films of that genre on six of the 12 screens of your local cineplex. There’s little doubt in my mind that the success of American Pie is directly responsible for this tripe. But the key differences between American Pie and Slackers are that the former’s gross-out humour is funny and a seamless part of the plot, and the characters in it are likeable. Contrast that with Slackers, which quite blatantly goes for the most purile, pointless gross-out possible but without the key ingredients of being funny or having any reference to the plot whatsoever, and has a cast of the most unsympathetic and hate-worthy crowd of rejects to grace a film since The Doom Generation.

The only hope that this film had for redemption, that during the missing 20 minutes I had avoided the first time around Ethan goes on a murderous rampage, killing first the Slackers then himself, leaving Angela free to get on with her own life, was not to be. Instead I was treated to an ending that more or less matched the theme of the rest of the film: despicable in every way.

So, a note to whomever gets to pick my April film from the forums… you want to give me a bad film to review? Don’t bother. I’ve already been to the bottom of the abyss with this nonsense. Anything you give me, no matter how banal, will be leaps and bounds ahead of this suckfest.

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