The Slammin’ Salmon
April 13, 2010
When the comedy troupe Broken Lizard arrived on the scene with Super Troopers (2001), they were heralded as a fresh new voice but then failed to capitalize on that film’s success by following it up with Club Dread (2004), a lame horror spoof and Beerfest (2006), an Oktoberfest parody. With each new film, fans hope that they will make something as funny as Super Troopers. Their latest is The Slammin’ Salmon (2009), a comedy set in an upscale restaurant.
The establishment is owned by famous ex-heavyweight boxer Cleon “The Champ” Salmon (Duncan). Apparently, he owes the Yakuza $20,000 and needs his staff to make that money in one night or he’ll lose the restaurant. As an incentive, the top grossing waiter or waitress gets two tickets to an upcoming Norah Jones concert. The wait staff is an eccentric group: Connor (Lemme) is a failed television star who originally left the restaurant for a gig on a CSI-type show only to have his character killed off after two episodes; Rich (Heffernan) is the manager and in charge of motivating the staff; Nuts (Chandrasekhar) is crazy and forgot to take his medicine; Donnie (Soter) is an incompetent busboy; Dave (Soter) is Donnie’s twin brother and the joint’s surly chef extraordinaire; Mia (Bowlby) is a beautiful ballerina who uses her sexy charms to pull in good tips and persuade customers to order expensive items off the menu; Guy (Stolhanske) is a sexist jerk; and Tara (Smulders) is probably the most normal one of the bunch.
Rich uses his powers of persuasion (and mimicry) to scam a more suitable incentive for the wait staff: reservations at a swanky spa/casino/hotel. Once the incentive is established, the film begins to resemble the culinary answer to Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) with The Champ as the same type of ballbusting motivator as Alec Baldwin’s character in the David Mamet-penned film. Naturally, the wait staff tries to sabotage each other in order to get that spa reservation and much of the humour comes from how they will, both with the often trying and annoying customers and with each other.
Michael Clarke Duncan is something of a minor revelation here as the boss from hell. The Champ is an arrogant bully and yet Duncan makes him kinda charming. He normally plays tough guys (Sin City) but has played very empathetic characters as well (The Green Mile). With The Slammin’ Salmon, he showcases some pretty decent comedic chops and gets to stretch a little as an actor. Jay Chandrasekhar is the other standout as Nuts, the heavily medicated waiter. Once his meds wear off, he becomes Zongo, a wild and crazy guy who really cuts loose with zany behaviour. It’s too bad that the film wasn’t better. For a comedy, there aren’t many laughs. The Broken Lizard gang are certainly funny people and there are a few funny gags but unfortunately they are few and far between making one hope that Super Troopers 2 is not far off.
There is an audio commentary by Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. In addition to co-writing the film, Heffernan also directed it and so he points out some technical aspects that he employed. He and Lemme also point out which moments were improvised and the inspiration behind of some of the characters. This is a fairly informative track with jokes sprinkled throughout.
Also included is another commentary by Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske. Chandrasekhar usually directs the Broken Lizard films and so Soter and Stolhanske have some fun comparing the differing directing styles. They banter back and forth, cracking jokes. All three men have worked in restaurants in some capacity and share some of their experiences and how they informed the film.
“Hellish Kitchens: Art Imitates Restaurant Life” features the Broken Lizard guys sharing some of their war stories about working in restaurants back in the day. This is a fun extra and some of the stories are amusing.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.