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Saving Silverman  

A Futile Rescue There's Just No Saving "Silverman"

Cast: Jason Biggs...............Darren Silverman
Steve Zahn................Wayne
Jack Black................J.D.
Amanda Peet...............Judith
Amanda Detmer.............Sandy
R. Lee Ermey..............Coach
Jared Van Snellenberg.....Belstom
Mark Aaron Wagner.........Luigi
Neil Diamond..............as himself
Directed by: Dennis Dugan Written by: Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul

Saving Silverman
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I'm not sure which is worse, hating a movie or feeling an immeasurable sense of pity for the actors involved. As I left the theatre following a screening of "Saving Silverman", feelings of intense hatred didn't overcome me as much as a need to commiserate the talented cast. How on earth did they manage to get lassoed into this mess?

A "Porkys" with half the intellectual wit, "Saving Silverman" centers around three dimwits ... actually, make that two dimwits and a sniveling wimp. Wayne (Steve Zahn), J.D. (Jack Black), and Darren (Jason Biggs) have been best friends since grade school. They've aged in years but not in maturity. The boys still get together every weekend with their beer bongs in tow, partying intensely while still holding out hope that their band (called Diamonds in the Rough after their idol, Neil Diamond) will someday emerge successful. Everything is smooth until Darren becomes engaged to Judith (Amanda Peet), an ice-cold psychologist who prides herself in being the puppetmaster to Darren's puppet. Wayne and J.D. decide she's not right for their best friend, so they devise a plan to kidnap her. In the process, they aim to reunite Darren with the only girl he ever loved in high school, the flighty but good-natured Sandy (Amanda Detmer). The problem? Sandy is about to become a nun. Luckily for our goofy heroes, she hasn't taken her chastity vows yet, so there is still a chance. Oh boy!

The movie doesn't execute jokes as much as painfully try to squeeze them from its empty script. Here's an example of a would-be comic exchange, as Wayne chastises J.D. for not answering the repeated ring of the doorbell:

Wayne: "Why didn't you answer the door?"
J.D.: "I was eating. I never answer the door when I'm eating."
Wayne: "I didn't know that."
J.D.: "You also didn't know I was gay."
Wayne: "What else haven't you told me?"
J.D.: "I have three balls."

The film is full of exchanges like the above. When I watch a movie like this, I wonder if the filmmakers themselves actually find the material funny. Unlike the Farrelly brothers who seek out ways to push the envelope of humor, director Dennis Dugan ("Big Daddy") and writers Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul seem to be second-guessing what a viewer might find funny. There are some relatively decent touches including R. Lee Ermey as a twisted football coach who ends up assisting the boys in their endeavor; and a cameo by Neil Diamond himself. But touches like those aren't developed in a manner that evokes enormous laughter; instead, they are just a mere distraction from the ineptitude surrounding the rest of the film.

The real tragedy to this "comedy" is watching a brilliant cast go down in flames. They include Jack Black ("High Fidelity"), Steve Zahn ("Happy, Texas"), Jason Biggs ("American Pie"), and Amanda Peet ("The Whole Nine Yards"). The only good thing about being in a movie of this sort is that on some level, they'll all automatically rebound with their next effort.

I know it's supposed to be a screwball comedy. But successful stupid humor doesn't derive from ineptitude behind the camera. There is a method to the madness in the works of the people like the Farrelly's. "Saving Silverman" has absolutely no method whatsoever, and the madness was felt more by me.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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