Geek Love

In a recent interview, Amy Heckerling said that she always got a kick out of being referred to as "'Clueless' director Amy Heckerling," and that she named her new movie "Loser" in the hopes of being called "'Loser' director Amy Heckerling." Be careful what you wish for. "Loser" is a disappointingly slack, hackneyed comedy. It squeaks by only because its stars are so endearing and because the whole enterprise is such a manifestly sincere, if stumbling, paean to underdogs that the movie itself becomes one more loser you're rooting for.

Paul Tannek (Jason Biggs) is a sweet, klutzy rube entering his freshman year in Manhattan. His roommates--comically nasty, glammed-out posers--mock him at every turn, then get him booted out of the dorm. Paul winds up living in a veterinary hospital and falls for the only other nonevil human being in New York City, a broke alterna-babe named Dora (Mena Suvari). Unfortunately, Dora is having an affair with her increasingly loathsome and supercilious English professor (Greg Kinnear, doing more or less what he always does). "Loser" degenerates into a lame, unconvincing love triangle. It's too bad, because Heckerling's screenplay has funny Gen Y moments, and the performances are solid. Biggs ("American Pie") shows some sensitivity and range, and Suvari has a spiky charm. Losers? Maybe. But this is a team that could have won on any other day.