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On the menu: Lowbrow farce

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 11, 2009

Calling all waiters and waitresses who hate your jobs, or at least your customers:

You, along with any previously existing fans of the Broken Lizard films ("Super Troopers," "Club Dread," et al.), will likely find much to chortle about in "The Slammin' Salmon," the latest addition to the Gen-X comedy troupe's raunchy body of work. All others may be slightly mystified by the appeal of this painfully broad, if not entirely unfunny, farce revolving around the young and harried waitstaff of a busy Miami seafood restaurant. The film's title refers both to the restaurant and the nickname of its owner, ex-boxer Cleon Salmon, played with abusive glee by Michael Clarke Duncan.

In debt to a Japanese mobster, Salmon announces to his employees that they need to move $20,000 worth of fish in a single night, or else. As an incentive, the top seller will get $10,000; the loser, a "broken-rib sandwich." Duncan's character is full of such malapropisms, and their silliness sets the high-water mark for the film's humor, which is more often characterized by his character's catchphrase, "Whatever, [unprintable 12-letter word]!" The frequency with which Duncan bellows this sure-fire laugh-getter only adds a drop to the bucket of poetic F-bombs sloshing around the script, courtesy of regular Lizard writers and stars Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske, who, with the addition of April Bowlby and Cobie Smulders, play the put-upon staff.

All this is merely a pretext for the Lizard ensemble to do what it does best, which is to engage in lowbrow insults and slapsticky shenanigans engendered by such plot complications as when restaurant manager Rich (Heffernan) accidentally ingests the diamond engagement ring that a customer (Sendhil Ramamurthy) plans to present to his girlfriend (Olivia Munn) in a brownie. Of course, Rich will have to excrete the ring, lavishly, before the dessert course arrives.

Much of the film's humor hovers around crotch level. If jokes about mental illness, terminal disease and sex with orangutans sound funny to you, go for it.

Morgan Fairchild, by the way, makes a game appearance as herself, along with cameos by comedians Jim Gaffigan and "Saturday Night Live's" Will Forte, Vivica A. Fox and Lance Henriksen. They contribute some laughs to the enterprise, along with a brief whiff of respectability, which quickly -- and thankfully -- dissipates.

** R. At AMC Loews Georgetown. Contains a steady stream of creative obscenities, copious sexual and excretory humor, comic violence and Jay Chandrasekhar's bare buttocks. 98 minutes.

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