For Dave, Sam, and Jeff (Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, and Michael Maronna), cheating isn't just a matter of convenience -- it's a way of life. Cool Ethan (Jason Schwartzman) stumbles onto one of their elaborate schemes, resorting to blackmail to enlist their assistance in landing the young lass he's been stalking. Ethan botches every one of their attempts, and in the process, Dave and stalk-ee Angela (James King) fall for one another. Wackiness and betrayal, of course, ensue, and the gang teams up to both crush Ethan and reunite Dave and Angela.
I didn't go into Slackers expecting much, and it turned out to really not be all that bad. With expectations as low as mine were, "not all that bad" seems a hell of a lot better than it would have otherwise. Sure, the uninspired plot is threadbare, but there are an ample number of laughs. The funniest sequences tend to be those that involve the execution of the Troika's detailed plans and Ethan's inability to put their work to any good use. The raunchy humor doesn't delve quite as far into the scatological as many recent "comedies", though there are some unusual and unforgettable gags in Slackers. Perhaps most noteworthy are Jeff's musical number with a sock-clad little friend and Ethan giving geriatric sexpot Mamie Van Doren a sponge bath.
The cast's filmographies are pretty respectable. Michael Maronna is probably best known as the older Pete Wrigley from Nickelodeon's THe Adventures of Pete and Pete, and he recently enjoyed a brief revival in popularity as Ameritrade mascot Stuart. Jason Segel is an alum from one of my favorite television series of all time, Freaks and Geeks, and he also had a reoccuring role on Judd Apatow's Undeclared. Devon Sawa appeared in SLC Punk with Segel as well as Idle Hands, one of those movies where I feel embarrassed to fully express my adoration. Slackers marks Jason Schwartzman's most prominent role since his breakout debut in 1998 with the indescribably brilliant Rushmore. Cool Ethan is undoubtedly the movie's most memorable character, far more cartoonish and over the top than Max Fischer. I'm apparently missing the appeal of gaunt actress/model James King. I'm hesitant to even use the phrase 'heroin chic' to describe her. She looks more like a famine victim shortly before the distending of the belly. There are several scenes in which King is scantily clad, and her repulsively emaciated appearance makes them almost unbearable. While I'm rattling off notes about the cast, Gina Gershon, Cameron Diaz, and the aforementioned Mamie Van Doren put in cameos, and That '70s Show's Laura Prepon has a minor supporting role as Angela's sex-starved roommate.
Slackers' theatrical run was brief and uneventful, recouping less than half of its $11 million budget. The early February release rocketed onto DVD in just under four months with a decent audio/video presentation and minimal supplements.
Video: This DVD release of Slackers includes two presentations of the film. The first is in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced, natch) and the other is full-frame. When given this sort of choice, I invariably gravitate towards the original aspect ratio, so readers interested in comments on the full-frame presentation will have to set their sights elsewhere. The quality is fine, if perhaps limited by the film's modest budget. The excessively long introduction to this review should indicate that I didn't give Slackers a gander theatrically, but I would assume that the film looked much the same way on the silver screen, lacking the razor-sharp appearance and glossy sheen typically associated with such recent releases. Sharpness and detail are both more than adequate, and the vibrant colors appear to be an accurate reproduction. The majority of the speckling has been corralled during the assault of production company logos (which incidentally features some of the most out-of-place voiceover work I've ever sat through), and the film grain present scarcely warrants a mention. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is unlikely to bowl over DVD enthusiasts, but there are few complaints to be had.
Audio: Some may argue over whether or not Slackers is indeed a comedy. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio has the usual attributes of a comedy mix, though, with the vast majority of the action centered on the front speakers. Rears get little use outside of providing general ambiance and reinforcing the score and Modern Rock Soundtrack™. The LFE primarily seemed to be reserved for the electronic-ish score, and twenty or thirty minutes in, I did something rather uncharacteristic and (gasp!) turned my subwoofer down a couple of notches. 'Twas a little too ghetto wall-rattling for my tastes. The most unexpected and appreciated aspect of Slackers' audio came from the takes on songs of varying 'classic' status -- an orchestral version of the Who's "Baby O'Reilly" and the best a capella rendition of a modern pop song (Ace of Base's "The Sign") outside of Zack Galifianakis' unforgettable appearance on Comedy Central Presents. Such flaws as hiss and distortion are predictably nowhere to be found, and dialogue isn't drowned out or in any way overwhelmed by other aspects of the mix.
Unlike most Columbia/Tri-Star releases, the obligatory Dolby stereo surround downmix and healthy supply of subtitles are absent. Only English subtitles have been provided.
Supplements: The only extras are Slackers' theatrical trailer and promos for a handful of other Columbia/Tri-Star titles. The IMDb mentions that an alternate version of the 'singing sock' scene was completed and struck down by the MPAA. Admittedly, I don't have any particular interest in seeing a CGI mouth superimposed on Michael Maronna's genitals, but surely something along those lines could have been included.
Conclusion: If I were to pore through Merriam-Webster fishing for that single perfect word to describe Slackers, I would more than likely stop at 'okay' and leave it at that. The movie has a few laughs, but nothing about Slackers or its presentation on DVD is destined to inspire anything approximating enthusiasm. Slackers might make for a decent rental, but I wouldn't recommend it as a purchase. Rent It.