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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Dora: Do you have a girlfriend?
DVD ReviewLoser was supposed to be one of the big movies of Summer 2000. American Pie had been huge the year before, and Loser just happened to have two of that film's teen stars. The last outing from writer/director Amy Heckerling was the smash Clueless, a movie that breathed new life into the stale teen genre. With a budget was only $20 million, a profit was pretty much guaranteed. Unfortunately, whoever decides which movies will be "big" didn't realize that Loser is closer to Look Who's Talking Too than Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It's always nice to see a director digress, isn't it?
Paul (Jason Biggs) is a small town kid who has just entered college at New York University. His good-natured, hometown ways don't exactly mesh with his roommate's hard drinkin' and hard druggin'. I mean, he actually, like, studies. He meets a kindred spirit in Dora (Mena Suvari), a fellow student who shares his passion for... well, not doing drugs and drinking, I guess. We know she is a good person because she wears the same ugly, unfashionable clothes that Paul does. Unfortunately, she doesn't have enough money to both stay in college and keep her hair expertly styled to look like it was spritzed with greaser, so she is forced to get jobs in nightclubs as a skanky waitress. She is also dating an immoral professor, Edward Alcott (Greg Kinnear), who berates his students for attempting to learn. The script comes complete with every romantic cliché in the book (including the inevitable "romantic montage" that makes the girl realize who is REALLY the right guy for her).
The situations and characters in Loser are far from original. Still, I can forgive this if it is presented in an interesting way, with engaging dialogue. Sadly, Loser has neither. Most of the dialogue is mediocre, with one or two funny lines and a load of clunkers. For example, after Dora suffers a drug overdose (more on THAT later), Paul takes her to the hospital and is told to give her a prescription. When she awakens, she looks at the bottle and asks, "Charcoal?" "Yes," he replies, "because you've started a fire in my heart." If you've finished gagging, I'll move on.
Suvari and Biggs give good performances, and their characters are likeable for the most part. What really ruined the movie for me were the supporting characters. Paul's roommates are horrible, inhuman, and unrealistic (well, I HOPE they are unrealistic). They do nothing but plot ways to—get this—DRUG girls so they can "sleep with" (read: rape) them. This plot point is sort of thrown away; it isn't even presented as a BAD thing, just something they do for fun. Presenting these actions as normal for the "hip" crowd is simply irresponsible.They could have shown a contrast between Paul and his roommates without making them quite so despicable. Likewise, Kinnear is nauseating as the lecherous and shallow professor. Makes me want to drop out of college right now.
Amy Heckerling has made some great movies in the past. Here she seems to be phoning it in. The script is sloppy, and the editing is choppy...this might explain why the film was a floppy!
Ok, ok, I apologize for that one.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Another generally pleasing transfer from Columbia Tri-Star. Colors are crisp with no bleeding of reds, and the black level is good. There is just a fraction of edge enhancement on hard surfaces here and there, but nothing distracting. Overall, however, the transfer seems a little dark and sometimes fleshtones can look a bit unnatural. Nothing major, though.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: On a 5.1 set-up, this disc sounds good, despite the fact that if suffers from the usual front-heavy mix that applies to most comedies. Action is firmly anchored in the front soundstage except for the score and ambient sound effects. However, the many, many soundtrack cues do sound nice in 5.1. Dialogue is always clean and understandable.
Clean and understandable if you are using 5.1, that is. I watched this at home with my family over the weekend. We only have 5.1 capability upstairs where there isn't a lot of room, so we watched it in the family room with just our TV speakers. Let me tell you, this disc suffers from a lack of a 2.0 English track. Using the TV speakers, dialogue was very hard (or impossible) to hear in any scene where there was a lot of background noise (the party and club scenes, for example). Just a warning for those without a surround setup.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Whatever It Takes, As Good As It Gets, Can't Hardly Wait
No disc would be complete without the 5-minute extended trailer. Oops, I mean "making-of featurette." Here, you get to hear the brilliant Mena Suvari dispense such intellectual nuggets as, "I think she is a good person." Wow. That is like, so, like, deep. Also included are cast bios, production notes, and the trailer, along with the trailers for two other teen films and, oddly, As Good As It Gets, which starred the leathery Jack Nicholson (who hasn't been mistaken for a teen since the McCarthy era).
My personal favorite extra rounds out the disc: the music video for the song Teenage Dirtbag, from the band Wheatus. It's not a good song by any stretch of the imagination, but the hook will stick with you. It really grows on you. Well, it really grew on my roommate, anyway, who downloaded the song and proceeded to play it EVERY MORNING, but anyway.... Besides, the band's name sounds like a cereal, so that's a bonus right there.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsLoser is pretty mediocre all across the board, but Suvari and Biggs are very likeable. I have friends who drool over every movie with Joshua Jackson (from Dawson's Creek), so I imagine there will be fans of these two who will really enjoy it. More of a rental than a purchase. Still, Columbia Tri-Star has provided another fine disc.
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