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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.14%
Worth A Look85.71%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 7.14%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Slammin' Salmon, The
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by Erik Childress

"Ladies and Gentlemen - Michael Clarke Duncan - Comic Genius!"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Comedies are easily the most subjective of all film genres. In most parts immune to all those pesky areas of studious film observation like cinematography and art direction. Editing obviously still applies since any comic actor or director worth their salt will tell you its all in the timing. But recommending them are easy enough. You either laugh or you don’t; the frequency of that laughter often determining the difference between the half-star separating a good comedy from either a great or average one. The Broken Lizard comedy troupe, by my count, had their greatest creative success with their second theatrical release, Club Dread, both in laughs and in technical terms of satirizing the slasher films of the ‘80s. Others prefer their breakthrough Super Troopers and some think their last effort, Beerfest, was a real riot. I continue to stick to my guns about Club Dread and the fivesome’s inspired casting of Bill Paxton as a faux Jimmy Buffett (“son-of-a-son-of-a-bitch!”) but their latest, The Slammin’ Salmon, is very close to matching the laugh track I had with that and contains a scene-stealing performance from their latest celebrity guest star that is worth the price of admission all by itself.

The Slammin’ Salmon in question is not some perverse sexual act but actually a very popular restaurant in Key West owned by former heavyweight champion, Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). He keeps up appearances to give his patrons a thrill but behind closed doors, the wait staff is understandably terrified to confront him about any of his policy decisions. His latest is a demand to his manager, Rich Ferente (Kevin Heffernan) that he put together a $20,000 evening so he may pay off some Yakuza members he’s recently indebted to. Rich then nervously makes a contest out of it. Those on the staff that can deliver the biggest bills (plus tips) will walk away with a $10,000 bonus, after a pair of Norah Jones tickets fails to ignite the workers.

Included in the competition are the usual assorted collection of attitude and roadstops. There’s the actor (Steve Lemme) who has returned to the Salmon after being fired from a CSI-knockoff. Tara (Cobie Smulders) is the fetching med school student. Her friend, Mia (April Bowlby, displaying nice comic chops) is a wannabe dancer whose flirty service garners her extra tips. Erik Stolhanske plays the irritable waiter who seems to have no ambition. Nuts (Jay Chandrasekhar) is appropriately named based on the medication he’s taking to keep his alter-ego in check. Not part of the contest (at least at first) is the new busboy, Donnie (Paul Soter) a slow chap who is also the twin brother of the restaurant’s chef who ranks somewhere between Gordon Ramsay and Chef “DOGFOOD” from Caddyshack on his people skills in the kitchen, particularly when a patron sends something back.

What follows are a series of methods the group uses to push the most expensive menu items and the frustration that follows when their time is wasted for little reward. Will Forte has a very funny payoff as a patron content to just order water and read War & Peace from cover-to-cover. Other situations vary in comic strength. There’s a recurring bit involving the recovery of an engagement ring that’s a bit forced, never that funny and wastes the comic charms of Attack of the Show’s Olivia Munn as the ring’s recipient. A running gag though involving one character’s unfortunate run-ins with scalding and Nuts’ relapses do find their way to success despite being on the lower end of comic inspiration.

Where other films may have been content to make these their centerpiece jokes, Kevin Heffernan (taking over directing duties from Chandrasekhar), keeps the pace just shy of over-manic and allows such subplots to become setups for better jokes. All of which pave the road for Michael Clarke Duncan to turn in work that, by all accounts, rivals his Oscar-nominated turn in The Green Mile, as the best performance of his career. Certainly he’s been written some real guffaws, but the deadpan confidence that Duncan delivers in every reading is so perfectly optimized that every appearance in the film is a promise that a huge laugh is just around the corner. From the way he threatens his employees to his certainty in correcting a translator, Duncan takes the ignorance of dumb to its greatest heights and hopefully will receive enough recognition for this turn to see a long comedic career leapfrog his usual brooding tough guy roles.

From a critical perspective how much more is there really to say? Is this Big Night? Of course not. Different leagues. Is it better than something like Waiting? Absolutely. This is also that rare restaurant film that actually avoids making the audience hungry. (And I was at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin when I saw it.) That’s just comparing it to food flicks though. As an overall comedy it certainly trumps most everything we’ve seen in 2009 so far (Bride Wars, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, New In Town, The Pink Panther 2, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Fired Up and Miss March) so its surprising that some studio hasn’t picked up on it after runs at Slamdance and South by Southwest. I couldn’t list ten pure comedies from 2008 that produced as many laughs as The Slammin’ Salmon and the way this year has started, it’s hard to think that wouldn’t hold true for 2009 either.

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originally posted: 03/26/09 00:54:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/02/10 Lacey M Awesome cast, boring movie! A few parts where I kinda chuckled..thats about it. 2 stars
4/23/10 Grace Loved it and it's high energy comedy. 5 stars
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  DVD: 13-Apr-2010


  DVD: 13-Apr-2010

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