director: dewey nicks
devon sawa, jason schwartzman, james king

. While it’s obvious that there’s no shortage of people who enjoy teen comedies, no matter how puerile, it would be hard to find someone willing to defend them as in any way sophisticated or original. The plot is simple enough, and followed without variation, since the simple storyline is the whole substance of the teen comedy: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy acts like amusing sociopath, boy gets girl. 

Slackers deviates not an inch from the formula, but director Dewey Nicks, correctly assuming that, with genre films, style is more important than substance, takes the teen film in a different, darker direction. 

The prime motivator of Slackers is Ethan, a repellent nerd psycopath (Rushmore’s Jason Schwartzman) obsessed with Angela (James King), the sweetest, prettiest girl on campus. He blackmails Dave (Devon Sawa), a hedonistic cheat, and his two buddies, to deliver her to him; teen comedy logic dictates that Dave falls for Angela and jeopardizes the imminent graduation of himself and his pals. There is a moment of wrenching maturation for Dave, a final scam on Ethan, and a tentative lunge toward adulthood. 

Nicks pushes the envelope in two ways; first by shooting the film with shaky, handheld cameras and dim, grainy lighting, secondly by making all of the characters, with the exception of Angela, as deviant as audience sympathy will allow. In the case of Ethan, the designated villain, there’s a lot of room, and Schwartzman relishes every frenzied, abusive, perverse aspect of this horrid pest. Ethan begs one nagging question -- at what point did the nerd take over from the jock as the campus villain?

There’s a grotesque cameo by Fifties b-movie goddess Mamie Van Doren as a hospitalized hooker, and a completely unexplained double-take of a scene with Jeff, the most deranged of Dave’s buddies (Michael Maronna, the wired office boy from the Ameritrade commercials), singing a duet with his own penis. The violated pastry of American Pie obviously has a lot to answer for.