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Saving Silverman

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Amanda Peet, Jack Black, and Steve Zahn recreate a scene from "Over the Top."

2001, Sony
All Rights Reserved

In the film "Saving Silverman" (IMDb listing), people fall down. In fact, the whole cast takes turns performing tumbles. I haven't seen this amount of pratfalls bent on pleasing an audience since "Home Alone 2."

"Saving Silverman" is not a good film. It's not even proficient in its very own witlessness. However, as a weekend time waster, "Silverman" does fill the essential quota of laughs. At times I even found it downright fun. You'll just want to shower immediately after you see it.

Jason Biggs ("American Pie"), Steve Zahn ("Happy, Texas"), and Jack Black ("High Fidelity") star as Darren Silverman, Wayne, and J.D. Best friends since childhood, the trio live together in bachelor nirvana performing in a Neil Diamond tribute band. When Silverman falls in love with a domineering and manipulative woman named Judith (Amanda Peet, "The Whole Nine Yards"), she demands that he never see his slacker buddies again. Not taking the news sitting down, Wayne and J.D. decide to kidnap Judith and set up Silverman with his high school crush (Amanda Detmer). Much slapstick occurs, and some help is sought from Neil Diamond himself, but can Wayne and J.D. save Silverman from the evil — and exquisitely gorgeous, thus making her not that evil — Judith?

Directed by Adam Sandler compatriot Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore" and "Big Daddy"), "Saving Silverman" has the very same feeling and construction of a Sandler film that Adam didn't want to star in. Relying heavily on humor only 13-year-old boys will find funny (heads in toilets, ragging on homosexuals, the aforementioned pratfalls), "Silverman" is far too aggressive for its own good. Almost each and every joke is brought to its knees long after the laugh has been had. I imagine that Dugan is convinced that his work behind the camera was the reason for Sandler's box office success. "Saving Silverman" has the leaden feel of a director who is lazily going through motions that have paid off before.

Couple a demo target of early teens with "Silverman's" constricting PG-13 rating (a decent oral sex joke is carelessly butchered so the film didn't receive the dreaded R rating) and you have a bawdy comedy that isn't very bawdy and only sporadically funny. Yet it's very determined to please even the most jaded audience member. "Silverman" takes (steals?) Adam Sandler's absurdist humor and runs with it, but without Sandler's warmth and comfort, "Silverman" just pounds away without any clue how to correctly engage any audience besides the ones that wear baseball caps with the brims curved into a perfect "C" shape.

That's not to say "Saving Silverman" doesn't have funny moments. It does. And they're all provided by Jack Black. A roman candle of an actor, Black broke through in a big way with his movie-stealing turn in last year's "High Fidelity." Black's natural comedic curiosity shines brightly in "Silverman." He takes ordinary scenes of comedy and contorts them into gold with his violent body language and his oddball idiosyncrasies. What Black achieves in "Silverman" is no small accomplishment considering director Dugan often has Black playing far below his usual intelligence. Black also manages to be funny when the rest of the cast couldn't possibly be. Co-stars Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, and Amanda Peet bend over backwards (or fall over backwards) to sell the often lame material provided by screenwriters Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul. With a screenplay so content with methodical physical humor and bathroom pranks, what could any actor do? The cast is left out to dry when all "Saving Silverman" really needed was an R rating to liven up the darker side of the humor and some tighter writing so we could laugh all the way through, not just occasionally.

Filmfodder Grade: C

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