Slammin' Salmon (US - BD RA)
Gabe sends back his order five times, and is pretty sure Broken Lizard spit in it
Former Heavyweight Champion Slammin’ Cleon Salmon’s (Michael Clarke Duncan) ‘Slammin’ Salmon’ seafood restaurant is in trouble. It seems that Salmon made an ill-advised bet with a Japanese Yakuza, and is in the hole for $20,000. If his restaurant can’t make the cash in one night it will belong to the Yakuza. Salmon shares this information with his head waiter Rich Ferente (Kevin Heffernan), and Rich cooks up a contest for the wait staff—Nuts (Jay Chandrasekhar), Connor (Steve Lemme), Donnie (Paul Soter), Guy (Erik Stolhanske), Tara (Cobie Smulders) and Mia (April Bowlby). Soon Salmon, who isn’t very bright, ups the ante, and promises a $10,000 bonus to the waiter than makes the house the most money. The game is afoot, and the waiters attack the floor with a vengeance.
I’ll start right off by saying I’m not a fan of the Broken Lizard crew, though I obviously go out of my way to avoid them. Slammin’ Salmon follows there hit and miss streak, and will likely satisfy fans, more so than the (from what I understand) universally disliked Club Dread. Slammin’ Salmon doesn’t have much of a plot (which ironically seems to be the thing that made Club Dread such a mess), but there are enough things going on to create a few laughs. The broadness of the whole thing definitely overstays its welcome in pieces, but things usually don’t go too long without a giggle, and the steady decline into total chaos actually works in terms of the audience asking what’s next. It’s no After Hours, but it’s a decent low-budget substitute for Noises Off. Production values are pretty low, direction runs on performances rather than running them, camera work is simplistic (outside of the smash-cut montages), and sound design is mostly built around the dialogue. This isn’t really a short-coming per-se, it actually positively reminiscent of dinner theatre.
Broken Lizard runs best on controlled improvisation, so the cast, not the direction, or even the script, really makes or breaks the project. The usual suspects all act as expected, but the non-Lizard cast creates an emotional centre, and often outshines the Lizards from scene to scene. April Bowlby certainly blends into the chaotic scenery (her face problems are probably the film’s most visual enduring jokes), while Michael Clarke Duncan steals the entire show as the title character. Duncan is clearly playing Mike Tyson, but brings his own brand of ignorant charm to the character, and sets the performance above mere parody. There are some great cameos peppered over the sketchy show, including Lance Henriksen, Will Forte, Morgan Child, Vivica A. Fox, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jimmy Gaffigan, and (personal guilty pleasure, ahem) Olivia Munn. The cameos are utilized rather expertly too. The film doesn’t stop to point the bit players out to the audience, every one of them has a narrative purpose, and their parts are not confined to a single scene, which makes their narrative purpose more organic (excepting Vivica A. Fox, who feels like a bit of an empty celebrity shout-out).
I assume no one is expecting anything particularly impressive from a low budget, practically STV released sketch comedy, but the lighting is effective, and there are a minimum of sets, which all leads to relative consistency. The film is very colourful. The restaurant décor features a garish mix of blues and lavenders, and the costumes follow suit, including some ugly striped ties, and a really hideous orange shirt and tie combo. ‘The Champs’ office is so overdone with different shades of red, patterned walls, and yellow highlights that the transfer can’t quite deal. The reddest reds do display some minor compression noise, and those background patterns are a bit muddy despite a relatively deep focus, but it’s not a huge deal elsewhere in the film. The edges are occasionally uneven (enhancement, doubling artefacts), and details are never excessively sharp, but the overall grain is minimal, and blacks are clean without absorbing any other hues. The transfer does feed one of the better jokes, that of one character’s fake tan and over-whitened teeth. In HD the teeth are really white, and the skin is really orange.
I watched half the film without noticing there was a PCM 5.1 track on this disc, which says something about the compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track’s quality. There isn’t a lot of expressive or aggressive sound design, but the restaurant is continuously hopping with customer noise, including murmuring discussion and clanking silver wear. The more abstract sound design includes the supposed sound of smash-cutting, and some ambient sounds that express the character’s inner fears (Michael Clarke Duncan’s intros are both impressive bits of business). The centre channel is the warm centre of the whole track, and everything here is clean, clear, and very natural. The music isn’t particularly original, but works well with the film’s tone, and is a nearly constant aural element—blended quietly under the more expositional scenes, and used as a nice exclamation point during the most bombastic montage sequences.
The extras start with two group commentary tracks. The first track features writer/director Kevin Heffernan and writer/actor Steve Lemme. Hefferman and Lemme are unexpectedly down and dirty concerning factoids, but the tone isn’t excessively serious. There’s a cute moment where Lemme fills in Duncan’s lines in a Mike Tyson voice. The second track features writer/actors Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske. These guys are also unexpectedly informative, but a little sillier, and a little more off-topic. The second would be the better track overall, as it features the better banter, but Hefferman and Lemme keep the more even pace. There is a surprising lack of overlap between the tracks, so Broken Lizard fans should be happy listening to both.
‘Hellish Kitchens: Art Imitates Restaurant Life’ (06:50, HD) is a roundtable (or round the van) discussion with the members of the cast, most of whom actually worked in the waiting industry. The stories here do feature somewhat in the final film, while others are merely amusing. Things end with the original theatrical trailer.
The Broken Lizard has been behind the curve conceptually lately. Super Troopers beat Reno 911! to the punch, but Club Dread came way after the Scary Movies, and Slammin’ Salmon follows Waiting… and Still Waiting…. They definitely give Slammin’ Salmon their own flavour, and actually go out of their way to avoid some of the more obvious wait staff gags (I’m specifically thinking about defiling food gags). Perhaps there’s a waiter in the house that can tell me which film is the most accurate. This Blu-ray release reveals the film’s budgetary constraints in its A/V, but there are no huge complaints in either arena. The commentary tracks are both pretty solid, though other extras are practically non-existent.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th April 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Director and Actor/Writer Commentary, Actor/Writer Commentary, Hellish Kitchens: Art Imitates Restaurant Life
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kevin Heffernan
Cast: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Michael Clarke Duncan, Cobie Smulders, April Bowlby, Olivia Munn
Length: 98 minutes
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