It’s weird how similar two movies can be. Within a short period of time (let’s say a week), I watched two movies about kids cheating their way through school only to get caught or quit at the very end of the movie: Cheats and Slackers, both of which came out in 2002. But the similarities don’t end there. Both feature an actor who was on the amazing Freaks and Geeks (Martin Starr in Cheats, Jason Segel in Slackers). Both also feature a former child star (Matthew Lawrence and Michael C. Maronna who you might know better as the elder Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete). There are probably several other similarities between the two movies, but I honestly don’t remember enough about Cheats to comment on them. I just got a kick out of the Freaks & Geeks connection.
So, you should be able to guess that I didn’t like Cheats a lot. I had seen Slackers before and was comparing the two movies in my head the entire time with Slackers coming up in almost every way (and I didn’t even realize Segel was in it). In this one, the boys are in high school and have a principal (played by Mary Tyler Moore) to compete with. She’s threatening to put a mark on their permanent records if they cheat again. This breaks the gang of cheaters up until they come back together for one last big cheat at the end of the movie. The cast is alright and there are some genuinely weird moments where the guys con a teacher’s kid into giving them her grade book in exchange for a hand job from a girl the kid liked at summer camp. Now that I think about it, that’s kinda creepy, isn’t it? The characters are a bit too over the top and the whole permanent record things sounds like it was written for a 10 year old who doesn’t know that such a thing doesn’t really exist (they don’t exist, right?). So, overall if you’re going to watch a movie about cheating, watch Slackers.
Because, damn, this is a funny movie. I don’t rank it up there with my big time favorites like Wedding Crashers or Old School, but it holds up as pretty hilarious. And, thanks to the fact that I haven’t watched it since probably around 2002, I didn’t realize how many cool people are in this movie. I remembered Devon Sawa, James King, Jason Schwartzman and Laura Prepon, but, like I mentioned, had no idea Segel was in it Plus, you’ve got a few other interesting people showing up. The main TA in the movie is played Jim Rash who is now the president on Community. He shares an office with Retta who plays Donna on Park and Recreation. Crazy right? There are also fun cameos by Cameron Diaz and Gina Gershon as ladies who can’t resist some of our main characters.
The story behind Slackers is that, these three dudes have cheated their way through college and are ready to graduate, but Sawa gets on Schwartzman’s bad side when he hits on his crush King. Sawa got sloppy on this cheating op and left some evidence behind which Schwartzman found. He blackmails the guys into helping him get King and he won’t tell the administration about their cheating. Of course, Sawa really falls for the girl, everything gets revealed to everyone, people get upset, but, in the end they come back together for one big cheat and everyone’s happy in the end (the poster is basically the last scene in the movie, which is kind of a spoiler).
Even though the basic plot is nearly identical to Cheats, Slackers carries it off with a lot more charm and brings the funny a lot better. Plus, Schwartzman is just hilarious in this thing, he plays his role “Cool” Ethan 100% honest which makes it all the funnier. He’s kind of like watching a young Michael Scott if Scott was even crazier than he is now. Plus, Segel’s as funny as he always is and there are super weird sexual moments that I won’t spoil that had me laughing. And finally, the scams they pull off in this flick are a lot more complicated and interesting. They seemed real too and got me thinking how much bullshit kids have to deal with in school, all these rules they have to follow and how you can easily get around them with a little ingenuity. Now, I’m not saying cheating is the way to go, but I would definitely hire these guys as spies, assuming they don’t cheat their way through those classes.