Teen movies have become predictable and boring over the last few years, so it makes a refreshing change to find that Slackers throws some pretty dark elements into the traditional mix of boozing, bunking off, youth rebellion and rampant rumpy-pumpy.
At its lightest it focuses on the antic of a trio of American college freshmen for whom life is a doss, with much energy dedicated to scamming the system and doing as little work as humanly possible.
Cheating is a way of life. Lying comes natural. Women are there to be used and abused. Exams are for losers. Then the spectre of true love raises its head and one of our heroes, Dave (Devon Sawa) gets an attack of Cupid and goes all gooey.
Of course, it isn’t all plain sailing, especially as Angela, the object of his affections (model-turned actress James King), is also the object of the obsession of nerdy, ambitious Ethan (Jason Schwartzman), a nasty, weird little Keith Moon lookalike who promises to grass up Dave and Co unless they help him win her heart.
With Ethan apparently holding all the cards the boys do what they can to persuade Angela that he’s the man for her. She’s not too convinced – Ethan after all is something of a walking freakshow – but they persist. That is until Dave can no longer see straight and decided to win Angela for himself.
But hell hath no fury like a deranged stalker scored, and suddenly Dave, Angela and anyone who gets in his way become the target of Ethan’s wrath.
While Slackers is, in essence, an ensemble film featuring a bunch of rising US talent (Sawa from Final Destination, King from Pearl Harbor) it really becomes a showcase for the astoundingly talented Schwartzman, the 21-year-old who rose to fame on the back of his performance in Rushmore.
Playing the epitome of the clingy, hanger-on loser that every school or college boasts, Schwartzman (the latest arrival from the Coppola clan; his uncle is Francis Ford Coppola and his cousin is Nicolas Cage) delivers a perfect capsule of teen weirdness.
Ethan is the nerd we all love to hate – desperate to be involved, annoying, always there but never wanted. And so uncool. He pees in the shower and shaves his chest hair into an ‘A’ for Angela.
His inability to interact socially provides the basis for the comedy in Slackers but it’s so unsettlingly real that while the fantasy sequences are hilarious (witness Ethan’s enthusiastic tonsil hockey with movie siren Cameron Diaz) the observations become pretty creepy.
It’s also gross. Fifties screen babe Mamie Van Doren pops up in a toe-curlingly rude cameo as a lascivious old whore, Seventies sexpot Leigh Taylor Young is King’s voracious, sexually-frustrated mother and Laura Prepon scores as Angela’s feisty roommate.
If scriptwriter David H. Steinberg and director Dewey Nicks want to offend, they succeed. Yet the film is often side-achingly funny, particularly when Schwartzman is on screen.
One can only dream of what he could bring to Keith Moon – the role he longs to play. Fingers crossed for him.