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'Saving Silverman': Why Bother?

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 9, 2001


    'Saving Silverman' Neil Diamond, Jason Biggs, Jack Black and Steve Zahn sing along in "Saving Silverman." (Columbia)
One thing the makers of "Saving Silverman" do not have to worry about: Hannibal Lecter will never visit them to eat their brains.

That is because they have no brains.

Evidence for that conclusion is on display in the movie, which expends a moderate budget and several attractive young performers to absolutely no consequence. The movie is so laugh-free and entertainment-empty, it hardly exists.

The premise shows some possibilities. A somewhat passive if comely young man named Silverman is swept off his feet by a dynamic, beautiful young woman, who decrees that they be married. The implicit deal: In exchange for sexual privileges, he will turn over his life totally to her, which involves dumping his two closest friends, a condition to which he readily accedes. Those lads, slackers with the best of them, rally from their sloth and wage a campaign to win him his freedom and return him to their threesome of massive underaccomplishment.

The campaign involves kidnapping the young woman (which the movie sees as a prank), stealing a corpse (another prank), chaining the young woman in the basement after faking an accident with the corpse, then organizing a relationship for Silverman with a woman of whom they approve (Amanda Detmer) – that is, a woman who, like them, likes Neil Diamond.

The major disappointment – other than not enough Neil Diamond music – is its failure to get much out of, or advance the careers of, Jack Black or Steve Zahn. They play the two left-behind slackers, and each, in previous films, has displayed a kind of intensity that promised much amusement in the future.

Black's thing is crazed anger blasting out of his little dark piggy-eyes; he was the smart-aleck clerk in "High Fidelity," who humiliated customers who didn't know as much about bad rock-and-roll as he did. Zahn was memorable particularly in "Out of Sight," as a hippie-dippy dopey car thief who fell in with some extremely bad boys and was so overmatched he hardly survived.

It was a wonderful turn.

In this film, these guys are utterly unmemorable; they don't rise, they don't connect, they never take over. Possibly they cancel each other out. They seem only average.

The she-beast of the film is played by Amanda Peet of some forgettable movies and TV's "Jack and Jill," whatever the hell that is. But though she's model-beautiful, Peet really doesn't have the skill or the timing to bring off this dominatrix's role.

She seems always to be stumbling over her very big white teeth as she tries to fire off her snide put-downs, so the timing, hence the comedy, is way off. As for the object of all this turmoil, it's a sweet-faced amateurish boy named Jason Biggs who has learned no more about acting than he had for "American Pie"; he hardly seems worth the trouble.

The director, Dennis Dugan, appears to be the winner of this week's so-you-want-to-direct-a-movie? contest.

He can't decide if he's making a cute little film or a black comedy, so he ends up with something nearly unwatchable: a cute little black comedy.

"Saving Silverman" (95 minutes) is rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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