Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saving Silverman Movie Review

This review was written in Feburary 2001 and is presented here for the first time.

Some boy-meets-girl movies that aren't good are at least charming, or cute, or have characters that you want to root for and see come to a happy ending. Not so with Saving Silverman, a new comedy from director Dennis Dugan.

In this useless movie, we're supposed to feel something for three life-long buddies: Wayne (Steve Zahn), J. D. (Jack Black) and Darren (Jason Biggs). They became best buds in the fifth grade and remained together for...well according to the movie it seems to be that a mutual love for Neil Diamond is the only thing that has kept these three imbeciles together. Wayne and J. D. are basically dogs with human qualities - they slobber, drool, yell, make ugly bodily noises and have no idea how to tastefully interact with the opposite sex (or the same sex for that matter). Darren is a little more cultured, a little smarter, but he hasn't made much of his life.

Forlorn that the "one and only love" of his life, Sandy (Amanda Detmer), is gone forever after moving away after high school. Darren's two friends force him to talk to a girl at a bar. I suppose we're meant to believe that Darren and Judith (Amanda Peet) hit it off, although I don't recall seeing any moment when Judith showed any interest in Darren. Flash forward six weeks and they live together. Judith is an obvious control freak, as evidenced by their first drink together when she makes Darren drink a gin and tonic rather than a beer.

One of the film's great mysteries is why these two have remained together and eventually, why Darren agrees to marry Judith. Aside from her great looks and obvious intellect, there is nothing a guy like Darren could possibly want from Judith. She has the personality of a nasty prison warden. After meeting Wayne and J. D. she tells Darren to dump them or she will withhold sex. This is somewhat understandable given the way they act upon meeting her.

The plot thickens when Wayne and J. D. decide that their best friend will be miserable with Judith, so they devise a plan to break them up. Eventually Sandy comes back into town, giving Wayne the brilliant idea to kidnap Judith while he and J. D. set up Darren and Sandy. But of course there's a kink in the plan: Sandy is days away from taking her final vows to become a nun.

Ultimately, it's impossible to care about any of the characters, and when Sandy and Darren start "falling in love" we're left wondering where those feelings came from. After two dates they're ready for marriage. What!?!  How are we supposed to care about these two when the filmmakers fail to provide anything for us to become emotionally invested in?

There is an interesting irony in the film. There is a deus ex machina in the form of Neil Diamond, who makes a cameo appearance to help stop the big wedding between Darren and Judith. I wonder if Diamond was aware that the movie seems to have a running joke that his music stinks.

The only thing the movie has going for it are the performances of Jack Black and Steve Zahn. They are two gifted comedians. In one scene, Zahn even makes the repetition of the word "c'mon" seem funny. There are never any hysterical moments, but those two guys can always provide some chuckles. It's unfortunate that their talents were wasted in a movie that fails to provide one truly compelling or even funny scene.

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