Friday, April 16, 2010

The Slamming Salmon

I’m a big Broken Lizard apologist. America doesn’t have a great record with comedy troupes. Beyond those annoying collectives that come along every couple of years at first seem so refreshing until they become so ubiquitous that everything that made them fresh and funny now seems like a dead dried husk.

By sticking to their own projects Broken Lizard has mostly avoided this problem. Although they do have the equally pressing issue that no one, save myself and a few dedicated apologists seem to find them very funny. After their out of know where film Super Troopers became a hit. It looked as though Broken Lizard had it made. But then their follow up Club Dread flopped hard and the hilarious Beerfest under performed. Now The Slamming Salmon limps to a DTV release, and for the first time I’m uneasily able to see why.

Like I’ve said I really like all The Broken Lizard films to one extent or another. Hell I even find a lot to like in Club Dread. Any movie that features a life sized Pac Man maze and Bill Paxton as the embittered song writer forever cursing Jimmy Buffet for stealing the thunder of his near hit, “Pina Coladaberg” is okay by me.

The problem with The Slamming Salmon isn’t that its not funny, its that its not funny enough. While the other Broken Lizard films build up such a head of steam that they can easily pass over a few clunker jokes, The Slamming Salmon never builds enough comic momentum to overcome its problems.

It has a pretty killer set up, set in a Miami restaurant, whose owner a former heavy weight champion offers a reward of 10,000 dollars to his number one seller, and a beating to the low man on the totem pole.

Michael Clarke Duncan, playing the owner, reveals a heretofore unknown comedic talent. His Salmon is a great creation, a violent, spoiled, nearly retarded creature of pure id who hasn’t met someone with the balls to tell him no for a very long time. His lines have a kind of absurdist poetry to them from, “Are You Lampooning Me Meat Drapes?” to him forcing his guests translator to repeat everything he says verbatim, but with an accent.

The problem is that few of the other cast members are playing to their strengths. One of the great things about Broken Lizard as a troupe is that they don’t assign character roles. The nutcase in one movie can be the leading man in the next, before he becomes the goofball and then plays the straightman. But this is the first time this really plays against them. Take Kevin Hefferman who also directed the film, though his role in Super Troopers as the sociopathic Farva in Super Troopers is say very different from his one in Beerfest as the walking pile of excess Landfill, both play to Hefferman’s comic strengths, odd intensity, single minded drive, and an almost pathetic desire to be liked. He plays the straightman in The Slamming Salmon, and really none of these skills are used. While Chandraseker and Eric Stolhanske where both able to make the straightman a figure of bruised dignity, Hefferman just provides a place holder for people to be mean to. We just don’t care that much. A fact the movie seems frantically aware of.

As the film progresses, it tries throwing subplot after subplot at the wall with mounting dismay, moving onto others before it has resolved virtually any. Will the former TV star and would be ballerina rekindle their romance? Well the movie figures that you don’t give a damn so it never gets around to answering that question. Will the former TV star, be able to schmooze his former producer? Played mystifyingly by Lance Henrikson looking like he’s finally crawled out of his Pumpkinhead grave. I dunno neither does the movie. Each unresolved subplot is a little speed bump, absolutely killing any sense of pacing the movie might have had.

The Slamming Salmon isn't a complete waste of time. Any movie that features Jay Chandraseker waiting on a table of cats and Michael Clarke Duncan’s profane emasculating wedding toast is not without its chuckles. The problem is even in its funniest moments, it still doesn't feel like enough.


J.D. said...

I felt that Jay Chandraseker and Michael Clarke Duncan were the best things about this film. As you point out, great set-up and the characters were funny enough but the script, I felt, was lacking. Not enough laughs, for my taste.

I will say that I love, LOVE SUPER TROOPERS and hope that they get around to making a sequel as they keep threatening to in interviews. That film I never get tired of and is still their best effort by far.

Bryce Wilson said...

One can only hope. I'd love to see Brian Cox back.