Saving Silverman

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, Jack Black, Amanda Peet, R. Lee Ermey, Neil Diamond
Rated: PG-13

If this film was even half as funny as it thinks it is, it would be a comedy classic. The problem is that not only it isn’t, but Saving Silverman repeatedly mistakes cleverness for quality and the bizarre for the funny. Now, there’s no denying that the film is indeed clever, but much of the cleverness works against the film, because it wants to have it both ways: as an over-the-top, utterly absurd comedy and as a movie in which we’re supposed to care about characters with the emotional depth of a mud puddle. The two approaches do not blend very successfully, and any hope for success in this realm lies in the appeal of the actors. If the actors have sufficient personality — and sufficiently appealing personality — it might be possible to bridge such a gap. Unfortunately, Saving Silverman relies very heavily on the debatable charisma of Jason Biggs (American Pie) to pull it through, and he simply doesn’t have what it takes. He isn’t funny enough in himself to overcome the fact that everyone else in the movie has better material than he does, and his own personality isn’t strong enough to add much to the two-dimensional character of Darren Silverman. The central dilemma of whether or not his friends — Wayne (Steve Zahn) and J.D. (Jack Black) — can prevent him from marrying scheming, manipulative Judith (Amanda Peet) isn’t very compelling, because we simply don’t much care whether he does or doesn’t marry her. Granted, Judith — a psychiatrist whose principle aim in life seems to be social climbing and wearing as many outfits as possible that perilously threaten to reveal her breasts — is not someone you’d want your best friend to marry, but the alternative Wayne and J.D. provide is a life of perpetual adolescence. This, however, seems to be a somewhat alarming mainstay of modern film comedy: the rampant romanticizing of the slacker mentality, with stupidity and oafishness viewed as desirable qualities. What Saving Silverman does have going for it — apart from clever characterizations from Zahn, Black, R. Lee Ermey (as a psychotic football coach), and Neil Diamond (parodying himself) — is a great deal of off-the-wall inventiveness. The film admittedly boasts wild idea after wild idea. Some of them are very funny, indeed, while others are simply strange (the gene pool nightmare that is the lineage of Silverman’s “true love” is an idea that is just downright peculiar). What keeps the movie going is the wealth of such ideas and the fact that they tumble out at such a rate that you don’t have time to get bored with any single one before another one is on its way. The problem with this is that the movie often seems driven more by desperation than inspiration. Directed with great enthusiasm, but very little sense of style, by Dennis Dugan (a man we can hold responsible for Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore and Problem Child — which in some societies might get him the chair), Saving Silverman barrels, bludgeons and blusters its way through to a climax that actually becomes predictable because it’s trying too hard to be unpredictable. Individual aspects of the film are quite good, but it just doesn’t form a satisfying whole.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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