The Slammin’ Salmon
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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The Slammin’ Salmon is hardly a movie. More like a 98-minute-long episode of a sitcom. You feel throughout as though you’ve missed something, as the premise is thin and the characters are as fleshed out as any character would be if you had just caught a single episode from a sitcom anywhere mid-season. And it never really rights itself. The whole piece is riding on a gimmick and a little plot and a little characterization would have gone a long way.
The story is simply that a rag-tag group of waiters working at The Slammin’ Salmon (run by foul-mouthed, dim-witted boxing champ, “Slammin” Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan)) must bring in $20,000 in one night so the Champ can settle a bet with the Yakuza. And if they can’t, they face a pummeling by the Champ. And that’s it really. That’s the WHOLE MOVIE— a paper-thin through line facilitating a series of disparate skits centered around the random, unfunny customers the otherwise funny staff encounter. With an average of one minute of exposition per member of the waitstaff, we have nothing but their comic hijinks to endear them to us along the way. This leaves their relationships to one another vague (even ex-lovers come off like recent acquaintances) and only one character develops in any significant way by the end of the picture, and for what that’s worth, we could hardly care less.
Imagine for a moment if Empire Records had only dealt with the potential loss of the record store and rarely taken us back into the Employee Only areas; or if Dante and Randall in Clerks had been helping customers NON-STOP. Getting such little characterization is fine in a sitcom, where characters are developed slowly over seasons, but in a film, you have an hour and a half to make the audience connect, especially if you want this sort of “one crazy day” plot to work at all. And I never connected.
I had relatively high hopes for this film, which was created by Broken Lizard (the creators/stars of Super Troopers) and stars Duncan as well as Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Lance Henriksen, Morgan Fairchild, Vivica A. Fox and comedian Jim Gaffigan. And although I did laugh (and quite hard twice, as a matter of fact), it was a paltry number of laughs in comparison to the number of attempted jokes. So unfortunately, I have to say that if you are not a devout Broken Lizard fan, you can probably skip this one.
Special features include two audio commentaries, the theatrical trailer and a featurette in which the Broken Lizard gang discuss their own experiences working in restaurants.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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