One of the most striking debuts in recent years, Jason Schwartzman's funny, sad, and moving performance in Wes Anderson's Rushmore was so effective that it raised the disconcerting prospect that Schwartzman's career peaked with his first film. Of course, it would be unfair to compare each of his subsequent movies to Rushmore, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to wish that his follow-up role didn't require him to wear women's panties on his head while engaging in feverish, candle-wax-centered masturbation. Sadly, Schwartzman does just that early on in Slackers, establishing a seemingly unapproachable nadir for a film that starts off badly and just keeps getting worse. By the time Slackers runs its course, Schwartzman has endured a long list of humiliations that dwarf his earlier escapade, including engaging in sexual relations with a clump of hair, shaving a letter into his chest hair, and sponging the naked breasts of Eisenhower-era sexpot Mamie Van Doren. A nonstop assault on Schwartzman's dignity disguised as a freewheeling college farce, Slackers stars Devon Sawa as a road-show Ferris Bueller who rules over fictional Holden University with his roommates through a canny mixture of overweening confidence, Machiavellian maneuvering, and cheating. As Sawa is on the verge of graduating, his scheme is uncovered by nerdy, mentally ill oddball Schwartzman, who blackmails Sawa into setting him up with James King, a pretty co-ed who is also, not coincidentally, the only woman in Slackers who falls on the virgin side of the virgin/whore divide. Predictably, the grating Sawa falls for the hopelessly white-bread King himself, but their romance doesn't register anywhere near as strongly as Schwartzman's doomed, slightly pathetic crush on the girl of his dreams. Slackers' cast is full of charming, funny, and likable young stars (Schwartzman, That '70s Show's Laura Prepon, Jason Segel of Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared), but David H. Steinberg's rancid script doesn't contain a single charming, funny, or likable character. Operating in a comic vacuum, Schwartzman steals Slackers without much effort, but it's not worth the theft.
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