While the term "Broken Lizard" may sound like a euphemism for an ill-functioning reproductive organ, it's also the name of one of the few real comedy troupes populating cinema in the early 21st century. The five man crew, consisting of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan (remember Donkey Lips?), Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stohlanske hardly sound like the second coming of Monty Python, but their films have (occasionally) met with great success. With four films beneath their belts, including the already-cult-classic 'Super Troopers,' the occasionally humorous 'Beerfest,' and the constantly humorless 'Club Dread,' one can easily approach a film from these up-and-comers with as much trepidation as there is anticipation, as one never knows which Broken Lizard they're going to get.
Going into 'The Slammin' Salmon,' I had two things in mind: that this film didn't have any hype behind it, unlike the constant quoting of 'Super Troopers,' but it couldn't possibly be anywhere near as terrible as 'Club Dread.' I was half right. I soon realized the lack of hype for the film possibly had something to do with the fact that it never played on more than eleven screens at any one time during its theatrical exhibition, with the majority of its run coming from a single screen, with a box office tally that totaled less than the cost of the catering budget for many productions. I soon found out why it never played on many screens, and why it didn't have any real word-of-mouth draw.
Because, frankly, everything the box art for 'The Slammin' Salmon' wants to tell you about the film is a mistruth, to put it politely. The "best work Broken Lizard has ever done?" Really? "Inspired comic mayhem?" Far be it for me to ask what film these other critics were watching, but surely, it couldn't have been the same one I just did. There must be two different films by this name. There's no other explanation!
Ok, get this: professional boxer Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan), the owner of the Slammin' Salmon restaurant, a trendy eatery in the Miami area, owes a yakuza boss twenty grand, and he owes it immediately. Instead of having stockpiles of cash in the wings, his money is currently invested in Moon real estate, directly next door to property owned by John Travolta. To get out of his fix, and keep his business, Salmon needs the restaurant to pull in the necessary dough in just one night.
Manager Rich Ferente (Heffernan) and his waiting crew (including Lemme as Connor, Stolhanske as Guy, Cobie Smulders as Tara, April Bowlby as Mia, Chandrasekhar as Nuts, and Soter in a dual role as Donnie and his twin brother, the restaurant chef) are put in the worst situation possible, but to give them dual incentives, the waiter who brings in the most green will get ten thousand dollars. The loser? A broken rib sandwich, courtesy of the hard hitting Salmon himself. Prepare for zany restaurant antics as the staff bust their asses, and each other, to try to avoid severe debilitating pain.
I'd like to take the next few paragraphs to wax philosophical on just what the fuck these guys were thinking!!(??)
This film was already made very recently. A comedy focusing on the quirky staff at a restaurant, as they messed with customers and each other. 'Waiting...' did it first, and did it much, much better (and to much more success, too). Another massive curiosity: this is the first Broken Lizard film in three years. Yes, it has already been three years since 'Beerfest.' How is it humanly possible that this was the best script that could be made in that long period of time (and check out the wikipedia page for the troupe to see all the other ideas in different levels of development that could potentially be infinitely better).
The cast (which has a solid slate of quasi-celebrity customer cameos, such as Will Forte, Jim Gaffigan, Vivica Fox, Morgan Fairchild, Sendhil Ramamurthy, and Olivia Munn) is hardly terrible, and, for the most part, all are experienced comedic actors. Throw in Duncan's superb performance that steals the show at every corner (easily the best written and acted character), and there's no logical way the film could bomb so horribly. It seems a scientific impossibility. Yet it happened.
Perhaps the best way to explain this utter disaster is to address all criticisms and concerns towards the cliche-riddled writing. The genre-staples are flowing in full force, as each member of the waiting staff have distinctly different personalities and troubled backgrounds that play a hand in the night's events, from psychotic split personalities, to insecurity issues, the ability to be incredibly accident-prone, the fear of death creating a conniving, backstabbing move of desperation, the rookie, and the innocent girl who does nothing wrong and thinks solely of others. One can readily piece the rest of the film together solely from these descriptions if they follow convention, and it'd be quite difficult to guess wrong, as this paint-by-numbers comedy is anything but unpredictable. The only times one can be truly surprised involve the dialogue and mannerisms of Duncan. That's all the film truly has going for it.
The whole "we need to make X amount of money before Y amount of limited time, or Z will shut us down" story has been done about a billion times, in sitcoms, cinema, and theater. It's a played out formula that often finds itself mixed in a comedy (or attempt at such), that has a soft sentimentality hidden beneath the yuks. It's generic and uninteresting. No one cares. Broken Lizard have easily made the worst film in their short career together, a resume stain if ever there was one. While there are some laughs to be had, by way of Duncan's best performance since 'Talladega Nights,' they're few and far between. There is exactly one gross out gag that works, and it truly is revolting, but nowhere near as ghastly as the film that it is in. I'd rather find myself with a burnt visage, a la Mia, than sit through this film ever again in my lifetime. From the infinite replay value of 'Super Troopers,' to the occasional chuckle to be found in repeat viewings of "Beerfest,' to a film whose Blu-ray I'd feel uncomfortable even using to prop up a short table leg. How the mighty have fallen, and fallen fast. Here's hoping that the talented crew rebound fast, with rumors of 'Super Troopers 2.' Right about now, they need it.
'The Slammin' Salmon' comes to Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Films with a 1080p VC-1 encode at 1.78:1. Does the Blu-ray appear as dreadful as the film itself was?
No no no no no, and praise the deities for that, as sitting through a terrible transfer of a terrible film, that's just too much! It looks fairly decent. Colors may be excessively bright, to the point that primaries glow, and shadow detail may be non-existant, but the restaurant gets nice definition and clarity, and a fairly nice three dimensional appearance here and there, when the film isn't as flat as the comedy (ouch). Sure, there was some motion blur early on, but that little snafu went away on its own relatively fast. There were a few bits of aliasing, and some noise issues, as well as some splotchy skin tones that often run hot (not counting makeup effects), but all in all, 'The Slammin' Salmon' earns points for being superior than garbage in the video category. Perhaps the nicest way to put it is simply stating this is one colorful little film. Respect.
While the disc may default to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, there is an uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 mix waiting in the wings to...err...something less than "wow you." Perhaps "keep you from turning the disc off, eject it, and throw it into an open fire" works.
"Well, why doesn't it sound like that when I say it?!"
Musical elements and atmosphere don't drown out dialogue, even if one begins to truly wish that were the case. Rears get some light ambience and discrete effects, though they don't hold up well as the film progresses, as they find themselves afterthoughts more often than not, with the primary participants coming from them being soundtrack elements. There is some minimal bass use, including a nice, but brief, bit of thunder coming from the big punch in the middle of the film. The film feels light, cheap, and nowhere near as crowded as it appears. One cannot complain too much, considering we're talking about a (hopefully) low budget comedy, a genre that isn't often too concerned with superior sound design. This track gets the job done, but doesn't deserve any real tip.
Kevin Heffernan's directorial debut would be a forgettable comedy if it weren't so monumentally bad. It is bad. It's really, really bad. Humor differs from person to person, and as such, comedies such as this may find a place in many homes. This home prefers its humor to actually be funny, original, and not out of some played out 1980's sitcom theme. With average audio and video, and a weak pile of extras, there's nothing here to earn a recommendation. Skip it.