I remarked to a friend the other day that I’d just watched the most recent Broken Lizard film and was going to write a review. He immediately responded with “Broken what?” and I then had to explain to him the groups past films. I say this because he knows, loves, and quotes Super Troopers quite frequently so if he didn’t know who the Broken Lizard troupe was, then what hope is there that the general public will pick up The Slammin’ Salmon, see “Broken Lizard Presents” on the cover and think “Well! That must mean it’s good if they did it!” Granted they also shoved namedrops of Beerfest and Super Troopers on the cover, but still my point is this: the Lizard’s most popular work came out nine years ago and with this being only their third film since Super Troopers (remember Club Dread? Of course you don’t.), one wonders what more they can possibly present as each one continually goes downhill.
In the latest comedy from Broken Lizard, (the creators of Supertroopers and Beerfest) “Slammin” Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a former Heavyweight Champion of the World turned celebrity owner of a high end Miami seafood restaurant, The Slammin’ Salmon. A terrifying bull of a man, Salmon uses fear to rule over his misfit waitstaff (Broken Lizard’s Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, as well as Cobie Smulders and April Bowlby) and on this particular night, he takes his bullying skills to a new level. In an effort to pay off a gambling debt to the Japanese Yakuza, Salmon sets up a contest to ‘inspire’ his waitstaff to sell more food than they ever have before: the top selling server wins $10,000 while the waiter in last place gets served with a broken rib sandwich—courtesy of the Champ himself. Spurred on by greed and panic, the staff resort to backstabbing, bribery, and indecent proposals in an attempt to upsell their patrons while simultaneously sabotaging their co-workers. As the hours pass, the dining room action becomes more frenzied as the contest escalates into a brawl for first place in order to win the money.
As gradually more disappointing as the Lizard films have gotten, I have to say I did enjoy Slammin’ Salmon on a very rudimentary level. It’s still nothing as powerfully quotable as Super Troopers, but the cast did have great chemistry with one another and as a result we got some incredibly hilarious jokes from it all. Sure, there are the usual Lizard cohorts here, but the newbie’s to the film, including the boisterous (and surprisingly hilarious) Michael Clarke Duncan as the titular character, still managed to keep up with the insanity that the Lizard boys brought to the film. In addition we get such talent as Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame), Carla Gallo (she appears in everything nowadays), Will Forte, and even Olivia Munn…who is a lot like Gallo now that I think about it since she pops up in films and TV quite frequently now as well. It’s a very rounded cast, but it sadly doesn’t keep the film from feeling very much like a direct-to-video outing.
“But,” you may yell at me in some kind of violent retort, “it was released in theaters!” Well of course it was numb nuts, but an eleven theater run doesn’t exactly scream quality, now does it? The film felt almost unfinished, or perhaps that it was a half-hour comedy skit stretched into a ninety-minute film that ultimately led nowhere. We’ll never see these characters again so the interactions between them that seemed to build up on something and eventually went nowhere just felt wasted. There were certainly a number of funny scenes to check out in the film, but it felt ultimately like a rough cut of a film that would become a bit more polished later on. Or perhaps a better descriptor would be a made-for-television film, as it felt oddly a bit like that old Comedy Central movie Porn n’ Chicken (or something akin to that…been a long time since I’ve seen it) in that it felt rushed in spots and unnecessarily elongated in others to fit the run time.
In the end it doesn’t matter; there are the requisite poo jokes, copious amount of cursing (majority of which comes from Duncan…who has an absolutely hilarious Xerox comment later in the film) and the usual shenanigans from the Broken Lizard crew to keep you entertained. It definitely helps if you know of and are a fan of their work (regardless if you know their name or not) when it comes to enjoying this film as it’s probably only so-so when it comes to the humor for most casual viewers. Still, I enjoyed the varied cast and simple story for what it was and for that it was worth a Rental at least.
Talk about bare minimum—the packaging for this is a Amaray eco-friendly case with plain text printed on a mirrored disc and zero inserts. It almost feels like you were ripped off when it comes to the packaging, but it does include a slipcover on the outside so…hooray for that I suppose. The video is clean and clear and with a rather aesthetically pleasing setting to gaze upon, it’s a good bet you’ll at least find the setting enjoyable. Audio is strong as well, although the LFE rarely gets used (except maybe during Duncan’s outbursts or the bathroom sequences), so the DD5.1 track ends up being wasted and rather front channel focused.
Extras are thankfully fronted with two commentaries, as the rest are non-existent:
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Heffernan and Writer/Actor Steve Lemme
Audio Commentary with Writer/Actors Jay Chandrasekar, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske
Hellish Kitchen: Art Imitates Life (6:49)
The featurette is quite skippable, but the commentaries are really hilarious to listen to. While both tracks are enjoyable, it’s the second one which is the most laid back and comedic. Heffernan seems to take a more technical approach to it, but in the end the Broken Lizard’s are about entertaining not about informing about how a shot was set up…although that’s there too if you care. It’s kind of cool though that they’re that diverse—they can act, direct, and write, which actually would’ve made more sense if they had sandwiched the two commentaries together…but that could’ve been incredibly chaotic.
Overall a decent disc with the commentary tracks that, like the film, is worth a Rental.
The Slammin’ Salmon is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.