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Throw It Back, Throw It Back! Throw It Back and Dynamite the Lake!

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 21, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | January 21, 2010 |

Broken Lizard is basically a boy band with one commercial hit that you really liked, but as they release progressively worse albums, you keep trying to convince yourself that they’re still good. Super Troopers was pretty funny, but since then, they’ve steadily been shitting the bed with the follow-ups. They’re like alumni at frat house parties. Yeah, it’s cool you could do eternal kegstands when you were 20. But now you’re 40; lay off. Most of their comedy revolves around weed or booze references, peppered with the occasional slur or crudity. The Slammin’ Salmon is like a stoner comedy, only they forgot to add the drug references. The plot tries to stretch a bad sitcom premise over hand-colored pencil sketches of characters with humor watered down like drinks at a Methodist wedding. It’s like someone started to tell a joke and then drifted off halfway through and never got to the punchline, or like a bad meal at a chain restaurant: You figured it wasn’t going to be great, but now you vow never to go back there again and you feel kind of sick that you wasted your time and money. Nothing pays off, nothing’s particularly funny, and nothing is going to stand out and blow your mind.

I could get into character names and who played what, but honestly the entire script was written with a set of vulgar magnetic poetry: Fart knocker, noodle dick, bignose dickface. Only not nearly as creative. They weren’t even archetypes; they were like slips of paper from a theater class exercise with character traits that were handed out every half hour of film time. One’s the swarthy douche, one’s a flirt, one’s a failed actor, one’s got a split personality, one’s a medical student, and one’s a twin. Honestly, they could have shifted characters — regardless of gender — and it wouldn’t have mattered. Even Michael Clarke Duncan, playing the titular boxer/owner of the restaurant Cleon “The Slammin’” Salmon, reads his lines like he got bored halfway through and just starting saying shit and making wilder demands to see if they’d let him get away with it. Want to ride in on a horse, followed by two men carrying a live swordfish? Sure, why not. Want to eat a bowl of raspberry gelato while doing this scene? Go for it, you acted with Tom Hanks.

Apparently, it was Kevin Heffernan’s turn to direct, so they gave him the helm, even though Jay Chandresekhar is the one with more experience, having done episodes of “The (American) Office” and a remake of The Dukes of Hazzard. It’s funny, but when watching this movie, it reminded me of the supposed drama with The Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy when Dave Foley was too busy with NewsRadio to bother helping with the script, so most of his characters were just random people entering the scene — you know, Just Some Guy. Except every character in this film was Just Some Guy. There was even a character named Guy. The premise of The Slammin’ Salmon is as simple as it is incredibly stupid. The owner lost a bet to the Yakuza when he was Japanese Albino hunting, so they have to raise $20,000 in a single night or he’ll lose the restaurant to the Yakuza. Considering he’s such an unbalanced asshole, threatening everyone with asswhooping and running the business with all the financial acumen of Nicolas Cage with an eBay account, why the fuck wouldn’t they just tank it and let the Japanese take over? It’s not like they’re gonna get fired and close down the restaurant.

So Kevin Heffernan, playing the manager, convinces everyone to participate in a contest to see who can make the most money — which is pretty much the goal of all waitstaff — and the winner will get a prize. The prize starts at Norah Jones tickets, then goes up to a four-night weekend stay at a spa resort and casino, and then becomes $10,000. Mind you, this is for waiters and waitresses to essentially DO THEIR FUCKING JOBS RIGHT. So the rest of the movie is the waiters and waitress up-selling and making terribly awkward jokes while increasingly lamer obstacles are thrown in their way. A famous actor — played by Mohinder from “Heroes” — wants to propose to his girlfriend by hiding an engagement ring in a dessert, but oops, someone eats it! The really sexy flirty girl who was in the lead gets first degree burns on her face. Twice. One waiter forgets to take his medication, starting out with OCD which somehow devolves into him smearing peanut butter in his hair, taking off his pants, and calling himself Zongo. One guy has a dude at his table who’s reading War and Peace and ordering hot water with lemon. Get it? Yeah, I don’t care either. It just gives them a chance to bring in a few second-tier celebrities for cameos (Vivica A. Fox, Morgan Fairchild, Lance Henriksen). I guess “The Surreal Life” is taking place at sea this year, and so they’re trying to save up for boats.

I kept waiting for someone to challenge someone else to a ski-off or a yacht race, because that was the only thing missing from this shameful attempt at an ’80s comedy framework. Broken Lizard’s target audience seems to be kids in college and high school, but they’re all well in their 40s. I used to light farts when I was in elementary school, because that’s funny. Broken Lizard isn’t even lighting their farts. They fart, and then someone says, “Hmm. You farted.” And another person responds, “I did!” Broken Lizard stopped being funny. Now, they’re at that watershed moment where next year, they’re filming Super Troopers 2. Since the original was the last time they made a somewhat decent flick, it’s supposed to be a return to form, but if they haven’t been able to recapture the magic yet, are they going to somehow find the spark? Or are they going to simply try to light their farts with it?