The Slammin’ Salmon
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Comedy troupe Broken Lizard may not put out the funniest films in the world, and they may not put out the cleverest movies in the world, but, dammit if their films aren’t unceasingly likable.
(A friend and co-worker of mine, Marc Edward Heuck, wrote a brief and insightful bit about Broken Lizard on his ‘blog, “The Projector Has Been Drinking.” Read it here: http://projectorhasbeendrinking.blogspot.com/2010/01/high-moments-of-low-culture-for-noughts.html)
There seems to have been an unfortunate development in recent comedy, where’s it’s funnier to portray your heroes as sour douchbages who are objects of mockery, rather than relatable human beings. The trend in comedy seems to be more about a super-self-aware comment o the fact that you’re making a joke, rather than just telling a funny joke. I have no problems with self-awareness in my comedy (is not the central doctrine of most major philosophies “know thyself?”), but when the self-awareness takes the place of the laugh, I begin to take exception.
Broken Lizard, by refreshing contrast, has consistently put out films that deal with funny characters doing funny things in a direct, slapstick manner. They are less focused on their thesis, and more focused on, well, laughs. The characters may be old-time archetypes, but they troupe is talented enough to make them people you want to spend a movie with. What’s more, you want to see them win in the end. The main characters may be boorish state troopers (“Super Troopers”), party-minded island-dwellers (“Club Dread”), beer-swilling thirtysomething fratboys, (“Beerfest”), or a put-upon waitstaff (“The Slammin’ Salmon”), but you’re with them all the way, and you’re cheering for each of them. The films may be predictable, but they happen the way you want them to, and that, in this day and age, can be a large accomplishment.
The story of “The Slammin’ Salmon” is pretty elementary: A group of waiters in a ritzy Miami-based seafood restaurant are promised a large reward if they sell the most food in a single evening. The winner gets $10,000. The loser gets beaten in the head. The restaurant is owned by an ex-boxer named Cleon Salmon (Michael Clark Duncan) who owes money to the yakuza, and is so dumb, it’s almost borderline offensive. This is not a man you want beating you in the head.
The film then follows the staff as they ambitiously connive to sell the most food, and halt each other from winning. There are the usual ex-lovers, motivations (med school tuition, dance school tuition, a place of one’s own, new medication), and greed floating about. The staff is overseen by their genial but jellyfishlike manager (director Kevin Heffernan) who can’t really stand up to anyone.
The whole troupe is here: Steve Lemme plays a fallen actor who has to return to waiting tables after a failed big break. Erik Stohanske plays a foul-mouthed douche. Paul Soter plays the twin waiter and chef. Jay Chandrasekhar plays a character named Nuts who is really even tempered… until he goes off his meds. We’re also treated to the comic stylings of April Bowlby, who seduces her customers with flirting and cleavage, and Cobie Smulders, who is the more demure smart girl, who is just as game and ambitious as the rest.
There are some golden moments in “the Slammin’ Salmon” that made me laugh and laugh, and I have already ended up quoting to friends. I don’t want to spoil any of them – there’s little worse than having the funny bits blown for you – but there are a few in the preview, which can be found online.
Is Broken Lizard offering a revolution in comedy? No. they are not. Are their films predicable and haphazard? Frequently. But they are offering something that a lot of films aren’t: genuinely funny moments and likeable characters. Seek this one out of you can.