College weirdo Ethan cottons on to serial scammers Dave, Sam and Jeff, and blackmails them into getting him Angela, the girl of his dreams. But Dave falls for her too, risking the wrath of Ethan and the end of their elaborate cheating plans.
Few U.S. teen comedies can boast the talents of an actor like Jason Schwartzman, and it’s largely his presence that nudges this college romp above many of its American Pie-imitating peers.
In a role not a million miles away from his breakthrough in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, Schwartzman is instantly hilarious as ungainly misfit Ethan, who becomes increasingly sinister when his romantic hopes are thwarted by the very person who’s supposed to be helping him.
Together with his performance, the relative subtleties of Schwarzman’s dialogue — hinting at a certifiably unstable past without a trace of frat movie clumsiness — make Ethan’s storyline by far the most interesting aspect of the movie. The audience is not supposed to be on his side — Ethan is hardly hero material — but you do find yourself eagerly awaiting his return to the action, more so than the rest of the cast.
Despite the charms of rising stars James King (Pearl Harbor) and Devon Sawa (star of Final Destination, with something of a young Mel Gibson about him), the romance plot is uninvolving, only really noteworthy for the moral dilemma it presents. In a film whose humour is, at its best moments, lively and engaging, it’s a shame that the requisite slush breaks the flow so very noticeably.
But there’s a strong supporting cast, and the gags come thick and fast. It’s only occasionally that the comedy departs from inventive territory to flirt with gross-out genre favourites which, while a trace more adult (female masturbation, S&M etc.) aren’t handled with any more sophistication than your average low-rent romp.
If the whole film were as good as the opening sequence — in which the boys enact a meticulously planned heist to steal exam papers — it would be fantastic. As it is, it’s flawed but fun.
There are nuggets of comedy gold in here not least because of Schwartzman but a flat romance and a few clichéd jokes take it down a peg or two in the quality stakes. Fans of the likes of Road Trip, however, should still enjoy.