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Loser Review

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Country boy Paul wins a scholarship to college in New York, and immediately finds himself out of his depth among his trendy fellow students. To make matters worse, Dora, the classmate he fancies, is having a clandestine affair with their English Lit. prof

★★★★★

Given her track record in fluffy but delightful comedies - Look Who's Talking (1989) , Clueless (1995) etc. - Heckerling's contribution to the ever-swelling teen crop should have been something to shout about. Alas, she seems to have lost her touch on this occasion, for Loser is as uninspired and leaden as they come. Both confused and confusing, it suffers badly from a plot which is far too complicated for this kind of genre, and a tone which strives for a balance of comedy and drama, yet somehow manages to fall awkwardly between the two.

At its centre is an obviously talented cast: Biggs, continuing the geek theme he began in American Pie (1999), initially appears to be a cross between Adrian Mole and Rushmore's Max Fischer. However, he does at least boast some presence, and it's even possible to sympathise with him as his boorish roommates take advantage of his good nature and the love of his life spurns his advances. Suvari gives the film a much-needed shot of personality, even if her romantic longings - which are inexplicable, given that Kinnear's professor is completely free of redeeming features - soon irritate.

Despite a smattering of mildly amusing one-liners most of the time the film doesn't even try to be funny. Instead, what it offers are dislikeable, frat boy stereotypes, whose activities take on a far more disturbing twist than usual; female characters who, Suvari aside, serve no purpose other than as sexual playthings for the men; and a tangled web of sub-plots which do little to speed things along.

And a supposedly witty, yet oddly mean-spirited epilogue, not only blows away any serious point the film might have had to make about the sex 'n' drugs college lifestyle, but leaves the viewer with a sour taste. All of which makes you think that this could just be the most aptly-named movie of the year.

Just about watchable thanks to the attractive central pairing of Suvari and Biggs, this is nonetheless so muddled in tone that it's hard to tell what it's trying to achieve.

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