Director: Kevin Heffernan
Screenplay: Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske)
Best known for their 2001 comedy Super Troopers, about a group of half-witted state troopers and 2006’s Beerfest in which five friends train for a secret German beer drinking competition, the Broken Lizard comedy troupe are responsible for nearly fifteen years worth of filmmaking that has retained something of a cult following. This past December, after four years of waiting, Broken Lizard fans were finally treated to the follow up to Beerfest, The Slammin’ Salmon.
The film takes place entirely in the fictional Slammin’ Salmon, a high end Miami restaurant owned but hardly operated by former heavyweight boxer and current moron Cleon Salmon, aka “The Champ” (Michael Clarke Duncan). When The Champ finds himself $20,000 in debt to a Yakuza boss, he orders meek and insecure restaurant manager Rich (Kevin Heffernan), to ensure that the restaurants’s receipts for that evening bring in the much needed cash. Faced with either bringing in the money or having “his ass shoved up his ass” by The Champ, Rich enlists the help of the Salmon’s wait staff, promising a stay at a luxury spa for the waiter or waitress who brings in the most business for the evening. This motivational tactic is later upped by The Champ himself to ten thousand dollars when he discovers that the receipts are not growing fast enough. From this point onward, the story hits the same note over and over with few to no worthwhile changes.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I have seen all the Broken Lizard films, with the exception of their first effort, 1996’s ill received Puddle Cruiser, and that I would consider myself a fan of their work. In fact, Beerfest is a film that I initially hated, but now ranks as one of my favourite comedies to watch whenever I’m in the mood for something fun and easy. However, what saved films like Beerfest and 2004’s Club Dread from simply being stupid comedies, is that their moments of stupidity actually translated into laughs. There was a no pressure feel to their approach that was content in generally being goofy and nonsensical, whether the audience laughed or not. The Slammin’ Salmon seems to be the opposite of that. It grovels and pleads for laughs, throwing out everything it can in the process and amounting to a hollow, formulaic retread of the spontaneity seen in earlier Broken Lizard works.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Broken Lizard gang isn’t out to make deeply compelling and life altering cinema. They’ve never made a pretentious film in their lives and that sort of carefree attitude is actually quite refreshing. They’re in it strictly for the laughs, and if those laughs are provided, then things like a less than stellar story can sometimes be overlooked. Unfortunately, as a result of the general lack of laughs, The Slammin’ Salmon fails to achieve its one and only objective. Perhaps this change in output can be attributed to Kevin Heffernan, who made his directorial debut with Salmon, taking the helm from far more experienced and usual Broken Lizard director Jay Chandrasekhar. Or maybe it’s a matter of the film’s single location serving to amplify the repetitiveness of the script itself. Whatever the case may be, as a Broken Lizard fan, I would have been far more pleased to see them return after four years with the much whispered about sequel to Beerfest: Potfest.
Don’t judge. We all need a few nice, easy laughs now and then.