Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Slammin' Salmon - 2009

"The Slammin' Salmon" - 2009
Dir. by Kevin Heffernan - 1 hr. 30 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's two things to get out of the way before I get to the nut meat of this review.  First, it's way easier to dig into a film that isn't entirely successful, and secondly, I am a fan of the Broken Lizard crew.  So, if it seems like I'm tearing them a new one, that's because there are very specific reasons why this film didn't work for me, and it's nothing personal.  I'm sure that I'll check out whatever they do next without dreading it.

"The Slammin' Salmon" is a "save the house" movie.  We've all seen the basic structure a million times - a ragtag crew has to save something (usually a house) from someone evil (or just a little douchey).  The plot works fine ever since "Animal House," a bunch of slackers are both given the opportunity to be hilarious pointlessly and to rise to the occasion, proving that they have been underestimated by the world at large.  There are certain points that have to be hit in order to do this story - heroes are hilarious and undermotivated, villain wants to end their way of life for profit, and there's usually a girl to impress as well.

The set-up here is that former boxing great Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) owns a seafood restaurant, at which the Broken Lizard crew work.  Salmon loses a bet to a Yakuza member, and needs $20,000 to pay it off immediately, or else.  The "else" largely means new ownership, and Salmon will likely be punching out everyone in sight.

Where this movie fails is in the set-up.  The "save the house" plot doesn't work if there's not a good reason why the protagonists would want to save their environment.  Usually, this means that the protagonists are so weird that they wouldn't fit in anywhere else, and that the "house" is the place that they've finally found that allows them to be themselves.  In that scenario, being thrown into the outside world and having to adapt to it would mean a complete loss of their individuality.  Alternately, the potential punishment can be so egregious that literally anyone would shy away from it (like the "Saw" movies and the potential for dismemberment).  The entire story-type hangs on setting this up effectively - you have to want the underdogs to win (or normal folk to keep all their limbs), otherwise there is no emotional investment in the characters, and then you just have guys doing gags.

"The Slammin' Salmon" fails on both points - the protagonists are not established as underdogs in any meaningful way (nor are they so awful as to command a viewer's curiosity as to what will happen next, as in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), and the potential rage of Cleon Salmon isn't sufficient to make me care that the characters don't get beat up.

So what does that leave?  The movie looks good, the humor is decent enough, but without getting the structural components of the story sturdy, it all falls flat.  This same batch of guys nailed this type of story with "Super Troopers," and to a lesser degree "Beerfest," but definitely not here.  That's kind of frustrating as a viewer, but I'll still check out whatever they do next.

2 / 5 - DVD


  1. Ah, see, I'd flip Beer Fest with SS... the more I see of Beerfest, the more I enjoy it... but that one fell really flat for me, while SS, despite it's ineptitudes, cliches, and the like, was mostly pure hilarity, and a bit of the Lizard guys returning to form.
    But, (and while it's been some time since I've seen it) I bought into their dilemma more so than you... I wouldn't want anything to do with Clark Duncan's Cleon punching me out, and who wants to lose their job?
    (Okay, maybe upwards of 99.9% of folks might not be in love with their job... point taken)

  2. "Beerfest" was okay, but I'm not sure I'd want to watch it repeatedly! Have you seen "Club Dread" yet? I kind of liked that one, too.

    And I think I could take Cleon! Lace 'em up, big guy!