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Loser   C

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Greg Kinnear, Thomas Sadoski, Zak Orth, Jimmi Simpson, Dan Aykroyd.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Amy Heckerling's Loser is a bubble-gum flavored exercise in formulaic predictability (much like that other teen romantic comedy from earlier this year, Boys and Girls). In the film, a down-on-his-luck guy (the loser of the title) meets a pretty girl who also has a few problems. We know from the get-go that these two people are supposed to end up together. Why? Because it's a formula romantic comedy, that's why.

Paul Tanneck (Jason Biggs) is a small-town teenager who's a little nervous about being shipped off to college in big, scary New York City. He doesn't think he'll quite fit in, since all those New York people have that sarcastic sense of humor. "You've seen that Seinfeld show," Paul tells his father (Dan Aykroyd). But Paul shuffles off to college in the big city on a scholarship -- with a bad haircut and a lame hat to boot, but a friendly and optimistic attitude nonetheless.

In a lecture class, Paul meets a smart, pretty gothic-grunge chick named Dora (Mena Suvari), who is having a torrid affair with their charming pompous ass of a professor (Greg Kinnear). Paul likes her right off the bat and takes note of the Everclear sticker on her notebook; you can bet an Everclear concert will figure into the plot somehow. Meanwhile, Paul's party-hardy, date rape drug-slipping roommates think he's a dork and get him kicked out of their dorm. So, of course, Paul gets a room at a nearby veterinary clinic.

As Dora, Mena Suvari (who co-starred with Biggs in last year's American Pie) plays a girl who's supposed to be smart, yet she's so naïve that she thinks she and her college professor are really in love (she thinks she's "one of those lucky people" who happens to be madly in love). She seems to be oblivious to the fact that he treats her like a doormat. Of course, she's blind to Paul's attraction to her, even after a hilarious remark about him wanting to start a fire in her heart (uh, you'll get it after you see the movie).

The best thing about Loser is Jason Biggs, a young actor who is impossible not to like. He's just got this funny, affable charm that's practically irresistible. In Loser, we want to be able to root for his character, but his role is so loosely written -- and the plot complications so predictable and lame -- that we're never really able to. Biggs is still great, though, but he deserves better material.

I would just like to know why writer-director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) chooses to make light fun out of the issue of college girls being drugged so that horny college guys can have sex with them. This puzzled me, because nothing is ever really made of the issue, even if the movie does have its hero point out that it's wrong. But it's played for comedy, and I personally don't find it all that funny.

But with leads as likable as Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs, Loser isn't entirely without merit. It's got some good scenes to be sure, a few laughs, and a decent soundtrack. I could gripe all day about what's wrong with it, but it's not that bad (though I still prefer this year's other teen romantic comedy by a stretch). Loser is perfectly watchable, sometimes sweet, but ultimately forgettable.

Review published 08.04.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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