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The Daily Tar Heel

'Slackers' More Mature Than Genre Standards

Three Stars

What's a great dream sequence without a little music, dancing and spanking? Whatever it is, the directors of "Slackers" couldn't care less in this surprisingly clever film about three friends who cheat their way through college.

Devon Sawa, Jason Segel and Michael Maronna star as Dave, Sam and Jeff, three college friends who pull out all the stops to run their biggest cheating scam ever before they graduate.

The trio's plans seem to be going off without a hitch until a creepy nerd, Ethan (played by Jason Schwartzman) catches onto their scheme.

The situation isn't made any easier once Ethan discovers that Dave has been hitting on his longtime crush and obsession, Angela (played by model James King). In a childlike fit of rage, Ethan blackmails Dave and his friends. Unless they use their devious charm to help Ethan win Angela's heart, he will have them expelled.

At first glance, "Slackers" seems like yet another sad trek back through the wastelands of teen movies from recent years. All the same-old elements are there -- the naive, angel-faced beauty and the slightly weird nerd everybody loves to hate. Dave, following the formula, is a bit shallow and his friends a bit dumb. And no matter what else is going on, "doobie smack joint heads" and wild sex are never far off.

But under that cloudy, overdone haze, "Slackers" does a little more than its peers. Packaged as a comedy, the film balances cheap laughs with a touch of dark humor. Hilariously clever, stylized dream sequences throughout the film run the gamut from old Japanese films to spoofs of musical numbers, like one of Ethan's many lovesick odes to Angela's perfection. At moments, the film seems like a more mature spin of the teen movies that have been made before it. But that maturity only lasts for a few seconds at a time.

And then outlandish humor ensues again and Ethan is off on another rampage, collecting more strands of Angela's hair or threatening once more to snitch on Dave, Sam and Jeff if they can't force Angela's love.

Given the genre, "Slackers" can't help but frolic a bit in the obscenities of other teen flicks like "American Pie," but the crude jokes are kept to a minimum.

For the most part, the movie manages to stay true to itself and offer its audiences countless laughs with a tad more wit and substance than its contemporaries.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu

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