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Compared to American Pie, this one is a Loser...
on 7 June 2012
It's unfair comparing this film to American Pie (which came out the year prior) but considering the male and female leads were both in that film, it is unfortunately going to draw comparisons with that iconic teen coming-of-age story, which was a huge hit and a generational landmark, leading to a floodgate of raunchy teen sex comedies that still continues to this day. However, Loser is not one of these, although at first glance it would be easy to mistake it for one.
Loser follows out-of-towner Paul (Jason Biggs) as he gets enrolled at a college in New York. Being from a small town, he worries that he won't fit in with the native New Yorkers and their legendary sarcastic wit, and his prediction turns out to be true, with him becoming the titular Loser. He struggles to fit in with the atypical students, who prefer booze and babes to Paul's books, and eventually finds a kindred spirit in cute, indie chick, Dora (Mena Suvari). Unfortunately, Dora has some issues of her own, such as lack of funds to support her through college and a dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend, who also happens to be their college professor.
There isn't much in the way of laughs or set-pieces with the story focusing on more dramatic storylines such as: feeling an outcast amongst people at college, financial struggles and inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. The film doesn't really poke fun at these situations and there is the occasional humour to be found in some of their interactions but largely, it doesn't really work well as a comedy. There are some rather strange moments too, such as an incident where Dora and Paul have to cut an half-born kitten from its membrane to save its life, after its mother gives birth to it on the floor, and a rather strange drug-rape storyline where Paul switches a stash of Rohypnol tablets with placebos. The way that this serious topic is relatively dismissed as a light-hearted jape, despite the connotations of the behaviour is actually quite irresponsible and dated. No actual rape is shown on screen, but it's implied that Paul's friends have been drugging girls and having sex. It seemed like an unnecessary plot point, and actually seemed to work against the film in the sense that no-one takes it seriously.
The film's central relationship between Paul and Dora is actually quite sweet and is the strongest thing in the film, with both Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari showing some chemistry between each other. Other than that, the other performances in the film seemed to be fairly dull and written in, with the normally great Greg Kinnear and Dan Ackroyd putting in half-assed approaches. I guess some films aren't worth the effort!
Overall, this is an unusual film which seems to struggle with the tone it is going for. With its casting, it seems to be courting the American Pie fans, although the content doesn't hold much interest for fans of crude sex comedies. In terms of being a romantic comedy, there are a few mis-steps with the more dramatic moments that make it seem a little off also. I think it's ironic that the Wheatus song, 'Teenage Dirtbag' and its music video featuring Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari in a short film (seemingly based at a high school prom, so not related to this movie) was much more successful than the film it was the soundtrack for. It's a shame that this wasn't a greater success because Biggs is really likeable, especially in his American Pie roles, and he deserved more success outside of that franchise.