There is a good movie in "Saving Silverman"--something along the lines of
1986's similar kidnapping caper "Ruthless People"-- just screaming to get
out. The cast seems to be having fun at all times, and are fearless at the
chance of looking silly for the sake of comedy, but they can never quite
overcome the dumbed-down screenplay. The characters are so stupid and often
times annoying, and the plot developments so unbelievable and shallow, that
the film ends up sinking under its heavy-handed weight.
In the brief prologue, we find out that Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), J.D.
(Jack Black), and Wayne (Steve Zahn) have been friends since practically
birth. Now in their early-20's, they remain close, even headlining their own
tribute band to Neil Diamond, their idol. A hurricane strikes that threatens
to break the three comrades apart, and it goes by the name of Judith (Amanda
Peet), a hot-tempered, demanding vixen who starts going out with Darren.
After meeting J.D. and Wayne, which ends with beer getting sprayed on her
(but not before toppling backwards out of their broken recliner and getting
salsa on her blouse), Judith insists that Darren is to never see his friends
again. Worse still, when news spreads that the two are engaged, J.D. and
Wayne take it upon themselves to sneakily kidnap Judith, locking her in their
basement. But once they have her, they're not quite sure how to get rid of
her. Meanwhile, they conspire to hook up Darren with his old high school
sweetheart Sandy (Amanda Detmer), who is back in town. They better work fast,
though; Sandy is planning to take her vows of chastity and become a nun
within the next week.
"Saving Silverman" is an intentionally (at least I'd hope so) far-fetched
fantasy-comedy that includes everything from kung-fu karate chops, to
attacking raccoons, to a Neil Diamond concert that includes the entire cast
as backup for the grand finale. It's diverting enough, and sometimes even
funny, but progressively plummets as the stupidity level rises. The ending is
a total cop-out, especially, idiotically forming an upbeat conclusion that
can't be believed for a second.
For one thing, the film's aim is entirely wrong. Setting up Darren, J.D., and
Wayne as the likable protagonists, and Judith as the bitch from hell, it is
quickly discovered that Judith, for all of her tactlessness, has a point when
she is appalled by Darren's friends. J.D. and Wayne are oversized babies, so
filthy and annoying that you almost feel sympathy for Judith for being forced
to meet them in the first place. Darren is a little more tolerable, but so
weak that he can never think for himself, and therefore, fails to win you
over. Only Sandy, the sweet nun-in-training who still has a thing for Darren,
and vice versa, is someone you can out-and-out root for.
At least the cast is game. While Jason Biggs (2000's "Loser") is
uninteresting and bland as Darren, everyone else manages to shine through the
problems. Steve Zahn (1999's "Happy, Texas") and Jack Black (2000's "High
Fidelity") are two very bright and attractive performers, and they make a
joyful team as Wayne and J.D., despite their low IQ-levels. It is the
strong-willed females that rule the show, however. Amanda Detmer (2000's
"Boys and Girls") is cute as the confused Sandy, and is the one ray of human
light that helps to bring all that is around her back to planet Earth. Best
of all, though, is Amanda Peet (2000's "The Whole Nine Yards"), who takes her
villainous character of Judith and runs with it, successfully mixing
outrageousness with cruelty and even a speck of added dimension. Peet has
such a winning presence that she admittedly needs to break out of this type
of role (she played someone almost identical in 2000's dreadful "Whipped")
before she gets typecast. Nevertheless, she is the best thing about a movie
that has little to recommend outside of the actors.
On the bright side, "Saving Silverman" is never so bad that it becomes
physically painful to behold (as was most certainly the case with the recent
"The Wedding Planner"), but it's also not particularly that good. An
over-the-top farce that never is able to break free from the death grips of
the featherbrained screenplay, "Saving Silverman" ends up being a toss-up
that lands just south of a passing grade.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman