The standard romantic-deception storyline concerns conniving university senior Dave (Devon Sawa) and his cohorts (Jason Segel and Michael Maronna), who have almost succeeded in cheating, scamming and defrauding their way to graduation when a friendless oddball who calls himself “Cool Ethan” (Schwartzman) figures out one of their elaborate schemes and boldly blackmails them. Cool Ethan's price for keeping his mouth shut: The guys must figure out a way to hook him up with the girl of his fevered dreams, Angela (model/actress James King from “Pearl Harbor”). The smooth-talking Dave undertakes this sensitive mission, naturally falling for Angela himself under the sort of secret-agenda-driven false pretenses lurking somewhere in almost all modern romantic comedies.
While Sawa (“Final Destination”) has an unpolished, Everyboy-ish presence that makes him a likable leading man in his own right, nothing can prevent the hilariously eccentric Schwartzman from running away with the show. The unorthodox, envelope-pushing choices the latter actor makes at every turn frequently knock the film off its predictable formula track, establishing Schwartzman's genetic connection to cousin Nicolas Cage more convincingly than any DNA test. The fact that “Slackers” consigns such a memorable character to a comic-relief supporting role in an otherwise routine package says a lot about the difference between it and a truly original piece of moviemaking such as director Wes Anderson's Schwartzman-starring “Rushmore.” Starring Jason Schwartzman, Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, Michael Maronna, James King and Laura Prepon. Directed by Dewey Nicks. Written by David H. Steinberg. Produced by Neal H. Moritz and Erik Feig. A Screen Gems release. Comedy. Rated R for strong language and sexual content, and for brief drug use. Running time: 86 min