- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Anchor Bay
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ho said nothing good ever came of a bad situation? While most of the entertainment industry was entangled in a messy writers strike during the beginning of 2008, the Broken Lizard guys decided to get together and make another movie independent of the studio system. The fact that many actors were out of work at the time also meant that they had their pick of the litter, but even with a host of funny cameos, the movie lives and dies by the chemistry of Broken Lizard’s five members. “The Slammin’ Salmon” is far from the comedy troupe’s best work (that remains a toss-up between “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest”), but it shows a hint of maturation from a group that usually specializes in more lowbrow humor.
The film takes place at the titular restaurant, a Miami seafood hotspot owned by former heavyweight boxing champion, Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). After losing $20,000 in a bet with some Japanese gangsters, Cleon orders the restaurant manager (Kevin Heffernan) to make enough money in one night to pay off his debt. With a $10,000 prize going to the biggest seller (and the loser receiving a “broken rib sandwich” courtesy of the champ), the restaurant’s waitstaff – comprised of failed TV actor Connor (Steve Lemme), wannabe ladies man Guy (Erik Stolhanske), obsessive-compulsive weirdo Nuts (Jay Chandrasekhar), busboy turned waiter Donnie (Paul Soter), medical student Tara (Cobie Smulders), and aspiring ballerina Mia (April Bowlby) – will do whatever it takes in order to end the night on top.
Much like their attempt at spoofing slasher films in the 2004 misfire, “Club Dread,” using the restaurant industry as the backdrop for their latest comedy wasn’t exactly a novel idea. Still, while movies like “Waiting” focused more on the mean-spirited nature of a chain restaurant’s vindictive kitchen and waitstaff, “The Slammin’ Salmon” is less about the gross-out, look-at-what-we-did-to-your-food gags and more about the actual competition between the waiters. Though none of the characters are particularly memorable when compared to their other films, Jay Chandrasekhar once again has some fun playing the over-the-top eccentric of the group. The real standout of the film isn't a member of the Broken Lizard crew, however, but Michael Clarke Duncan, who gets to showcase his untapped comic potential as the Mike Tyson-esque restaurateur.
It’s pretty obvious from the start that “The Slammin’ Salmon” isn’t going to be the comedy troupe’s funniest movie, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had. Some of the jokes – like a tired subplot involving an accidentally digested engagement ring – may seem a little beneath Broken Lizard’s comedic standards, but with some of the stuff they’ve done in the past (i.e. any time Chandrasekhar has gotten naked), it’s hard to imagine they even have any. Okay, so maybe the movie is a little more conventional than their other comedies, but that’s hardly any reason for concern. “The Slammin’ Salmon” is still very much a Broken Lizard film, and though it’s unlikely to become a cult classic any time soon, it’s a solid addition to their résumé that is sure to please fans.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Considering just how short of a run “The Slammin’ Salmon” had in theaters, it isn’t at all surprising to find the Blu-ray release isn’t exactly overflowing with bonus material. As has become the standard on every Broken Lizard flick, however, the single-disc effort features two commentary tracks. The first, with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, is easily the stronger of the pair, namely because they have more to talk about with Heffernan having directed the movie and Lemme’s character being partly autobiographical. The second track features the other three members (Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Jay Chandrasekhar), and though it’s entertaining at times, they don’t really cover anything that hasn’t already been discussed on the other commentary. Rounding out the set is a short interview (“Hellish Kitchens”) with the Broken Lizard guys about their personal experiences working in a restaurant and fairly easy-to-find Easter egg.