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February 04, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Roman Polanski's 1965 film
plays with "The Golden Fish"
at the Michigan Theater.
7 p.m.
michigandaily.com /arts


FEBRUARY 4, 2002


Lame 'Slackers' fails to commit to
either gross-out comedy or romance
By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Daily Film Editor

There needs to be a new piece of movie legisla-
tion, effective immediately: If you have a scene in
which the comic material culminates in a loud
fart, you are not allowed to have any scenes of
sappy romance
when the boy and
girl finally kiss.
It is important
for comedies, SLACKERS
especially gross-
out comedies, to At Showcase and
commit to their Quality 16
goals. A movie Paramount
like "There's
Something About
Mary" works because of its ability to follow one
comedic tone and make its so-called "drama" run
parallel to the comedy. "Slackers," on the other
hand, can't make up its mind whether it is a pure-
ly disgusting romp through bodily function
humor or a safe, by-the-numbers coming of age
comedy like "Can't Hardly Wait."
"Slackers" follows the scamming lifestyle of
three college kids: Dave (Devon Sawa, "Final
Destination"), Jeff (played by Michael Maronna,
who is best known from the Ameritrade commer-
cials - alarm bells should be ringing) and Sam
(Jason Segel, "Dead Man on Campus"), who
have cheated their way through high school and
college, using elaborate cons to boost their grades
and pass their tests. (They actually do more work
arranging to cheat their way into an inconspicu-
ous B-plus or an A-minus than it would take to
study and get that grade, but don't let that bother
Dave is on the brink of pulling off another mid-
term exam scam when "Cool" Ethan (Jason
Schwartzman, "Rushmore"), whose seat Dave
has stolen, discovers the evidence of Dave's crime
and makes him a proposition, Sam and Jeff:
Unless th'ey help Ethan win the adoration of
Angela (James King, "Pearl Harbor"), he will
turn them in to the dean and get them kicked out
of college.
It sounds easy enough, as their skills in espi-
onage and manipulation are unmatched, but
there's one minor snag: Dave and Angela begin to
fall for each other, putting the agreement in jeop-
This could be the plot of the sequel to the 'N
Sync stinker "On the Line" if it wasn't for a cou-
ple key things: There is a constant presence of

It's all right, Nikki, they can't all be good. Go make out with Robbie Williams.
Ki dman can't save
dark Bithday Girl'
firom tepid mediocrit

Courtesy of Screen Gems
Schwartzman (right) tells King, how he saved Latin and then made a crappy movie with lots of fart jokes.

dick, fart and masturbation jokes that would
make Beavis and Butthead blush, and then there's
the fact that Ethan is a borderline psychotic stalk-
er with a shrine to his girlfriend-to-be, including
a doll made of her hair.
Schwartzman's unique comic timing and physi-
cal comedy give the viewer moments of relief
from the other'wise painful film. He plays Ethan
as a cross between Max Fischer of "Rushmore"
and David from "Fear," with just a hint of Buffalo
Bill of "Silence of the Lambs" to spice things up.
He tries to work his way into Angela's life
through lies and surveillance, and when he dis-
covers that Dave has double-crossed him and is
pursuing Angela for himself, he loses control and
tries to get even with the three cheaters. His out-
rageous antics and over-the-top reactions are
often hilarious, including when he blows up at a
bum in a soup kitchen and jumps across the buf-
fet line to attack him.
However, his talent is often wasted on basic
and less than clever jokes. Schwartzman, who has
potential to establish himself as a character actor,
is in dang'er of being typecast as the wacky,
slightly imbalanced, angst-filled comic relief.
"Slackers" is full of stomach-turning gross-out

gags, from Ethan giving a sponge bath to a bare-
chested 70-year-old prostitute to surprisingly
revealing scene of Jeff playing with a sock puppet
on his unmentionables. Most of these nuggets of
comedy don't work; They just make you yearn
for the next scene with Ethan flailing around and
The three cheaters are basically filler, with all
of them trying their best (and failing) to reach
comic proficiency. Segel is better at comedy
when he is doing deadpan, and Maronna appears
to be riding the Seth Green train of comedy, with
little success. King is another victim of the model
turned actress pandemic that has swept the movie
industry - a pretty face but no redeeming acting
ability, neither comic nor dramatic.
Laura Prepon ("That '70s Show"), playing
Angela's slightly slutty roommate, is underused,
and only calls further attention to the mediocrity
of King.
The other main problem with the movie is the
seemingly last minute attempt to add a real
romance between Dave and Angela, which could
have wotked if it had been done in the same "pull
my finger" juvenile manner that the rest of the
movie embraces.

By Jenny Jeltes
Daily Arts Writer
The premise of "Birthday Girl,"
directed by Jez Butterworth, sounds
pretty lame: A man orders a Russian
mail-order bride who is
not quite what he
expected. Once the
story begins, however,
you may think other-
wise, simply because BIRTHD
the director's style A
seems intriguing and At Sho
unique. But this change
of expectation may fool Mir
you - except. for
Nicole Kidman, the film has few
redeeming aspects, mostly due to a
lack of dialogue and a random and
disconnected plot that just doesn't
flow right.
"Birthday Girl" begins by portray-
ing the dull and painfully normal
life of John Buckingham (Ben
Chaplin), who is a banker in the
small town of St. Albans, England.
Feeling unhappy and dissatisfied
with his life, he resorts to ordering a
bride over the computer, where he
can choose the looks and attributes
he desires. When he goes to the air-
port to pick up his new wife, he
finds that she doesn't even speak
English. Knowing there must have
been a mistake, he tries to call the
service about the problem, but after
several attempts and no response, he
tries to live with the strange, shy
woman named Nadia (Nicole Kid-
man). Because of the language bar-
rier, their relationship consists of
curiosity about one another, along
with lots of sex. Nadia is also sur-
prised to find a pile of sado-
masochistic magazines hidden under
his bed, and after reviewing the
"material," she incorporates such
behavior in bed. It is the little
things like this that just make the
film unique, yet the significance of
such elements is questionable.
Kidman does an excellent job
with her role, and she impressively
pulls off a Russian accent. Her mys-
terious character keeps the audience
involved, but one may be disap-


pointed with the direction the story
takes. It just doesn't seem right.
After Nadia struggles to express to
John that it is her birthday, he makes
her a cake and prepares for a special
night. Much to his surprise, howev-
er, two Russian men
flurry in for a surprise
visit to help celebrate
her birthday. Claiming
to be Nadia's buddies,
Y GIRL Yuri (Vincent Cassel)
and Alexei (Mathieu
ase and Kassovitz), stir up the
place with booze and
max excitement, with John
converned over who
these guys really are, and what's
going on.
Nadia seems quite pleased, howev-
er, so John reluctantly agrees to let
the guys stay for a little while. In
what ends up to be the worst mistake
of his life, John soon realizes the
trio, including Nadia, had scammed
him for money all along, and Nadia
had simply used him as part of their
plan. It turns out the three of them
had been going around doing this all
over Europe with different men, and
Nadia, who turns out to be named
Sophia, had always played the role of
the mail-order bride.
After John is forced to steal
money from the. bank, he is tied up
and left in a hotel bathroom. At this
point, the film loses any potential it
had, and all built-up suspense is
deflated. This is simply because
there are few additional surprises,
and Chaplin's character hadn't been
developed enough to warrant any
audience insight after his tragic real-
ization. The end has an interesting
twist, but nothing good enough to
outweigh the inconsistent and flawed
sequence of events. Yuri and Alexi
are definitely an integral part to the
story, yet they are not that interesting
to watch. Their performances are
mediocre, and they seem to detract
from what the story is "really about,"
although you can't quite understand
that either. All in all, "Birthday Girl"
is dark and mysterious but not
impressive enough to be considered

Timothy Findle ys comic 'Elizabeth Rex'
details Shakespeare's meeting with Elizabeth

By Charity Atchison
Daily Arts Writer

Performance Network is just one
of only three theaters with rights to
* perform Timothy Findley's new
play, "Elizabeth Rex." The general-
ly funny play, which premiered at
the Stratford Festival in 2000, will
run at the Performance Network
playhouse through March 3rd.
"Elizabeth Rex" is based upon
the Essex Rebellion. The Earl of
Essex, a confidant of Queen Eliza-
beth, planned to overthrow the
Queen. The play takes place on
Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Essex's
beheading and Ash Wednesday.
That evening the Queen had sum-
moned William Shakespeare and
his players to perform for her. It is
after that performance that the play
The play opens with
Will Shakespeare,
played by Andrew
Huff, reflecting upon ELIZA
his life on the eve of
what he tells the audi- At Pe
ence is his death. Will N
is soon joined by his
players after having Thu
performed a play for
Queen Elizabeth. According to
"Elizabeth Rex," Will staged
"Much Ado About Nothing,"
though this is not historically

the Performance Network version.
Will gives Elizabeth a way out,
suggesting that she let Essex live,
but Elizabeth refuses to do so.
While the interaction between Eliz-
abeth and Will increases during the
second act, it is still overshadowed
by the frankness of the interaction
between Elizabeth and Ned. Will's
interaction is clearly more honest
with the Queen than Ned's. Also,
the characters of Ned and Elizabeth
feed off of one another, each sup-
plying what the other character
lacked in strength in terms of the
written character.
Though "Elizabeth Rex" is a
comedy, it is not without its serious
moments. The second act drags
with the anticipation of the sound-
ing of the cannon. In terms of sto-
ryline, the second act brings out
the discussion of loves and griev-
ing for Will, Ned and Elizabeth.
All confess their loves and come to
terms with mourning.
In general, the play was strongly-
acted, but the comedic elements of
the first act are what made the play
highly entertaining.

Coutens y oniel C. Waker
Gillian Eaton as Elizabeth I and Thomas Hoagland as Ned Lowenscroft.


known for certain.
Shakes p eare's
players provide a
comical opening to
ETH REX the play. Ned, played
by Thomas
ormance Hoagland, enters
work lively onto the scene
having finished play-
[arch 3rd ing Beatrice and
complaining of
another player missing his lines.
Ned takes on the roles of women in
Shakespeare's plays and is quite
adept at doing so. After his tirade,

the aged Percy, portrayed by Roy
K. Dennison, talks of his days play-
ing women and being sent flowers
by men.
Elizabeth, played by Gillian
Eaton, joins the players for their
company, desiring that they stay
awake with her until the cannon
sounds Essex's beheading.
Throughout the first act, Ned and
Elizabeth exchange jibes: Ned
being more of the woman, and
Elizabeth more of the man. These
tensions between Ned and Eliza-
beth were strongly played out in


M E s. >..c 2, , O'

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