If there’s one thing that seems to characterize the Broken Lizard gang other than looking like Hootie and the Blowfish if the singer was Indian, it’s that they don’t try very hard. I don’t say that to be insulting. It’s actually what you might call a double-edged sword. (Though isn’t that pretty much every sword? How many single-edged swords have you seen? That’s called a knife.) Point is, this refusal to turn in much effort sometimes manifests itself in half-assed jokes, for example an annoying restaurant patron who takes up a table while ordering only water and reading War and Peace. It’s the kind of joke I could imagine myself writing in fifth grade, and if I were to put in a movie, would probably want to add some layers to. But not Broken Lizard, they just go with it and keep rolling.
Other times, that they can just throw something at the wall and keep rolling whether it sticks or not becomes a strength of theirs, and it comes from that same approach. You give a joke more leeway if it seems like they just thought of it ten minutes ago, which they probably did. It doesn’t feel contrived, so the stakes are lower. It’s improvisational — sometimes it works, sometimes it tanks.
The last time it worked beautifully was in the opening scene of Super Troopers, a pitch-perfect comic minisode the troupe has been coasting on since 2001. That’s not to say there weren’t funny moments in 2004′s Club Dread or 2006′s Beerfest, it’s just that nothing has matched the sustained comedic force of that first opening sequence. Neither does anything in Slammin’ Salmon. But even when they aren’t funny, there is a certain vicarious pleasure in watching the Colgate University sketch-comedy troupe (made up of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske) do their thing. It’s easy to imagine you and your buddies, given a moderate production budget, choosing to mostly hit each other in the nuts, throw fish, and invent reasons for hot girls to strip down to their panties or less (a recurring theme in Broken Lizard movies).
The “plot” of this one is that restaurant owner and former boxing champ Cleon Salmon (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) has one night to earn $20,000 so he can pay back the Yakuza and keep his restaurant. So he sponsors a contest among the wait staff (the wacky Broken Lizard gang): the waiter who sells the most food gets $10,000; loser gets his ass kicked. Kevin “Farva” Heffernan plays the manager, Jay Chandrasekhar is an unbalanced waiter creatively named “Nuts” who goes on and off his meds (and turns into super waiter alter-ego “Zongo”), Steve Lemme (the moon-faced one) is an actor returning to his day job for the first time since his CSI-like-show character got killed off, Paul (the chubby one) Soter plays A-hole line chef Dave and his identical twin busboy Donnie, and the thin white one Eric Stolhanske plays Guy, who is tan and douchebaggy. Yes, that appears to be the extent of his character. In a bit of inspired casting, hot chicks April Bowlby and Cobie Smulders (say that five times fast) play hot chicks.
The long and short of it is that Michael Clarke Duncan gets almost all the good lines. He’s funny in almost every scene he’s in — making an entrance on a horse (get it? a huge black guy on a horse?), mispronouncing Guy’s name as “Meat Drapes” (“It’s Medropides, sir.” “Why doesn’t it sound like that when I say it?”), shouting “motherf*cker” at the drop of a hat — it’s impressive that a black guy shouting “motherf*cker” can still be this funny. As for the rest of them, it’s a mixed ball bag. Steve Lemme’s actor shtick is more backstory than actual laughs and he kind of just acts like a sensitive p*ssy the whole time, Chandrasekhar’s is a little obvious, and Stolhanske doesn’t have much to do at all. Paul Soter playing his own identical twin is funny at first, but quickly morphs into “it’s funny because he’s drunk.” Ehh… not so much. I’ve been drunker, and I worked the breakfast shift (true story). Heffernan is probably the best actor of the group, but he’s a bit wasted playing the manager who has to keep everyone in line. He’s much more fun to watch when he’s the wild card.
Other than that, there isn’t a lot to say. It has some funny moments. It’s the kind of movie that’d be kind of a letdown if you went to see it in a theater, but for a Sunday afternoon hangover flick, it ain’t bad. I should also point out that there’s been a trend recently of disabling the fast-forward function during previews on DVDS so you have to watch all 10 minutes of them before you get to the movie — yet another minor irritant from the same traitors to the human race who invented speed bumps and meter maids to make your day just a little sh*ttier — which is thankfully absent here. So kudos to you, Slammin Salmon DVD designer guy, my life seems almost worth living.
(Keep in mind, I’m not saying skip it, I’m just saying see it in the proper context).