Blu-ray Review: The Slammin' Salmon (2009)

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Since director and co-star Kevin Heffernen notes that he and the rest of the cast were “trying for a kind of Glengarry Glen Ross meets the Marx Brothers-parlor comedy feel,” in the Broken Lizard comedy troupe's latest effort The Slammin' Salmon, the tagline may as well have been, “always be Chico.”

While the jokes come fast and furious with most hitting the bullseye of “amusing smile” rather than full-on hysterical giggle fit, the verbal interplay between the troupe never hits a Groucho stride since the dialogue level remains equal to middle school playground. Still, despite this, there's enough of Chico's quick go-between charm to keep you interested, no doubt aided by Heffernan's breathlessly paced naughty dinner theater approach and the fact that what the troupe seems to do best is some pretty inventive slapstick punctuated by an off-color joke... or five.

With the capable comedic chops of Michael Clarke Duncan mixing in with the group, the action is set at an upscale Miami seafood eatery owned by a former heavyweight champ (Duncan) who seems to have been modeled on Muhammad Ali given his love of chatter and discussion of past fights such as “The Dispute in Beirut.” However, whether it's the result of too many hits to the head or too many days missed in math class, The Champ proves to be none too bright when it comes to money matters. Owing twenty grand to Japanese Yakuza gangsters, he challenges his poor brother-in-law and restaurant house manager he calls Richardo (Heffernan) to whip the wait-staff into shape by setting up a contest to give the winning earner ten grand.

Obviously, to everyone but The Champ, this means the restaurant must rake in thirty grand instead of twenty but no matter-- with dollar signs flashing before their eyes -- the group of misfits including a brainy medical student (Cobie Smulders), beautiful ballerina (April Bowlby), former “CFI Hotlanta” actor (Steve Lemme) who came crawling back to the job, a new busboy sent out to push expensive dishes as a waiter totally drunk, and more try to beat each other for the money by any means necessary.

Whether it's in attempting to sabotage large orders or tables, flirting with customers, or through manipulation, for the film's roughly ninety minute running time, we see the morals and jokes plummet and spike in equal measure. With very few truly hilarious moments and several pretty old gags recycled throughout like the stubborn customer who won't order or leave (a War and Peace reading Will Forte), the swallowing of an engagement ring along with an off-the-psychotic-meds rollercoaster of one employee, we're presented with a mixed bag of wit.

An affable comedy that succeeds simply because it's never dull – as a movie, it may be a bit misguided – but I appreciated its intent and the high energy of the talented troupe that works together more like the Three (or several!) Stooges as opposed to The Marx Brothers, even though the gross gags stink about as much as fish that's past its expiration date.

On an experimental comedy troupe level, Broken Lizards' effort aces out the far more uneven yet far more creative effort The Ten. Still, nonetheless I truly appreciated what the cast members were trying to do with the one set feel of the film and building all of its comedy out of character as opposed to building elaborate sets, wasting money a la a big Hollywood venture by trying to force laughter out of its audience.

With a crisp transfer to Blu-ray from Anchor Bay and a nice sound balance throughout – with or without 5.1 surround as it worked just great tested on my HDTV speakers as well – although the demand probably isn't there effects wise to warrant the Blu-ray price-tag, it's of impressive theatrical quality all around, even if I recommend renting the work prior to purchasing.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.