Jason Schwartzman's starring role in twisted high-school comedy "Rushmore" was something of a revelation. Playing an unstoppable nerd, whose lack of charisma or ability proved no hindrance to self-advancement, he created a central character both horrific and strangely endearing. In Dewey Nicks campus romantic comedy "Slackers", he returns to a similar territory but adds serial killer menace to the geek cliché.
The problem is, he's not the lead. That honour goes to Devon Sawa, playing Dave, one of three college wasters - the others being Jason Segel and Michael Maronna - whose attempts to cheat their way to graduation fall at the final hurdle when Schwartzman's friendless weirdo Ethan catches them in a scam. The price of his silence is for them to help him do the impossible: win the heart of James King's dream girl, Angela. However, Dave then starts to fall in love with his target...
When Schwartzman is on screen, things go swimmingly. From serenading his love with a portable synthesiser at two in the morning to making a doll from her hair, Ethan is a Pandora's box of nightmare comic situations. And the director keeps things swinging at a zippy pace, with some neat fantasy sequences punctuating the plot.
However, when Sawa and King take centre stage, interest drops. Typical of the sweet, fresh-faced types Hollywood likes in this type of comedy ("American Pie" is full of them), the lovely couple are likeable but have no edge, being upstaged by simple supporting gags such as an oversexed female roommate or a horny middle-aged mother. Only a man whose eyebrows meet and who writes his own (pretty ropey) songs could bring out the best in the film, but we never see enough of him.