Film

‘Slow Learners’ Makes Iffy Comedy Out of ‘Nerds’ Playing ‘Cool’

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In an early scene in Slow Learners, a character talks about the virtues of Kegel exercises: “It’s like a glass of wine for your prives!” That cringe-inducing shortening of the word is unfortunately indicative of much of the film’s humor.

Only marginally dirty, Slow Learners follows the trials of the love lives of Jeff (Adam Pally) and Anne (Sarah Burns), a pair of nerdy best friends working at a Pennsylvania high school. In this day and age, when nearly everyone claims nerdhood, there isn’t anything inherently exciting about nerdy characters — we need more than fumbling clichés, and Slow Learners doesn’t deliver. Jeff and Anne decide they need to shed their nerd personas and be “cool” (a concept that’s just as vague, if not more so). Operating on a kind of pubescent, predictable stream of jokes, they essentially just become assholes.

The two friends end up together (if you’ve seen a romantic comedy before, you’ll guess this after about five minutes). But before they get to this stage, Jeff adopts a leather jacket and amusingly bro-ish accessories and Anne tries to be spontaneous, dancing at bars, getting drunk, and treating her best girlfriend with callousness. The film does live up to its name: The way Jeff and Anne act feels like a twelve-year-old’s vision of how cool adults would, and it takes too long for them to realize this. While it has a few funny moments (including the uncomfortable date that begins the film),

Slow Learners mostly feels like a collection of exaggerated performances of drunkenness and mean-spiritedness that leads to a very predictable end.

Slow Learners

Directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce

Sundance Selects

Opens August 19, IFC Center