Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Broken Lizard’s Slammin’ Salmon

The food might be decent, but never expect to see celebrity owners at their ostensive restaurants. Actually, that is usually for the best. Take the case of former heavy weight champion turned restaurateur Cleon “Slammin’” Salmon. His idea of taking an active interest in his upscale seafood establishment typically involves terrorizing the wait staff in the Broken Lizard comedy troupe’s The Slamin’ Salmon (trailer here), which opens in New York this Friday.

Probably best known for the Sundance hit Super Troopers, Broken Lizard specializes in dumb humor packaged for the indie film set. Slammin’ is basically more of the same, the only deviation being Kevin Heffernan assuming the directorial duties from fellow Lizard Jay Chandrasekhar. Still, there is something refreshingly politically incorrect about a comedy in which a long series of jokes are written around a schizophrenic character named “Nuts” who turns into the lunatic “Zongo” when he does not take his meds.

After losing a bet to the Yakuza on an albino hunting expedition, “The Champ” has to raise twenty G’s fast. Of course, that is quite a bit more than the restaurant has ever done in one night, but there is no need to be reasonable if you can simply terrify your manager into running a series of escalating sales contests that you have no intention of honoring. It’s good to be the champ.

Slammin’s comedy is overcooked and served with more enthusiasm than style, but to be honest, it is funny more often than not. Granted, the hit-or-miss humor hardly breaks any new ground. When Rich the manager (played by director Heffernan) accidentally swallows a customer’s diamond engagement ring (don’t ask), it is all too obvious where the film is headed—both literally and figuratively. Still, there are some clever moments, including amusing cameos from Morgan Fairchild appearing as herself and Lance Henriksen as her television producer. Broken Lizard also gets credit for maintaining their manic energy and delivering a few big tasteless laughs.

By and large, the staff of the Salmon are pretty likable, particularly How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders as the cute med student-waitress Tara. However, the Lizards are frequently upstaged by Michael Clarke Duncan (of The Green Mile fame), who is very funny in an appropriately over-the-top way as The Champ. They are all effectively supported by a great looking restaurant set that has the right chic designer look.

Nobody involved in Salmon is likely to hear their name called on Oscar night for their work on this film, but it should have a long life in frat house DVD players. While the humor might not be especially edifying, there are laughs in Salmon. It opens Friday (12/11) at the AMC Empire 25 and Village 7.