Movie Review By Casey McCabe
Just as Nick Lowe once suggested that you gotta be cruel to be kind, I have a theory that you gotta be smart to be stupid. At least in terms of movies, which is what we’re talking about.
Saving Silverman is the latest in a growing line of what could be called “dude” comedies. Dude comedies feature dudes who call each other dude. Dudes are virtually always guys, and they’re always stunningly dim, though they often end up with women who are not only far brighter, but also just plain stunning. The movies would be easier to dismiss if they weren’t kinda funny. And in some cases they’re actually sharp. I’m thinking back to original dude comedy dudes like Bill and Ted in their Excellent Adventure. Beavis and Butthead Doing America. Even Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins pushing Spinal Tap to eleven. Say what you will about the neuron challenged characters, the people who made these films showed some smarts. I’ll even put the IQ of South Park up against any Nora Ephron comedy. Seriously.
But in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel himself, it’s a fine line between clever and stupid. And that’s the line Saving Silverman hops over for roughly 90 minutes.
Now another rule of dude comedies is that the dudes can and should have the most outrageous of schemes, but no actual ambition. And when we meet lifelong friends Darren Silverman, Wayne Le Fessier and J.D. McNugent, Darren is supervising bingo games at a retirement home, Wayne is shooing raccoons out from under people’s porches, and J.D. has retired after the briefest of careers in fast food. The only spark in their lives is their Neil Diamond Tribute Band, which is treated with less respect than the mimes who also do free performances on the pier. In fairness, only Wayne and J.D. are officially dudes. Silverman can actually survive in polite society. And when the requisite stunning woman sweeps him away to be her slavish boy toy, breaking up the band in the process, Wayne and J.D. enlist the outrageous scheme to bring him back in the fold.
If that sound like the bad news, the good news is that you couldn’t ask for a better cast. Silverman is played by the eminently likable Jason Biggs from American Pie. And for stalwart dudes Wayne and J.D., the filmmakers get to run with the brilliantly dim Steve Zahn, and the serious comedic force that is Jack Black, last seen in High Fidelity. Amanda Peet, in the usually thankless role of remorseless bitch, is a pleasure to watch for all the right reasons. Screenwriters Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul, and director Dennis Dugan were obviously out to have some most excellent fun, but can’t resist pushing their luck all over the place.
When they need a backstory for Silverman’s cute high-school ex, they make her part of a family of circus freaks. They have women punching men in the face because that’s always funny. So are nuns. Especially nuns who lift weights and cuss. They let their charming goofs become kidnappers, then make them jump over the line to grave robbers. They put Amanda Peet in revealing dresses that her therapist character wouldn’t wear, and neither would Cher for that matter. They ask us, pleasantly enough, not to question what she might even see in Silverman in the first place. And they depend on Neil Diamond, acting rather unconvincingly as himself, to come in and save the day.
All that being said, Saving Silverman may not be as bad as you think, even if it’s as stupid as you suspect. If the filmmakers were just a little smarter, they’d have had a serious dude comedy on their hands
© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 2/7/01
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