“You are useless with a capital Y!”
After taking on cops, slasher movies, and beer enthusiasts, the Broken Lizard comedy troupe has now set its sights at the restaurant industry. The titular eatery, The Slammin’ Salmon, is named after its owner, former boxing champ, Cleon Salmon (Michael Clark Duncan, Daredevil). The champ has picked up some serious gambling debts and has only one night to pay the mob $20,000. He comes up with a solution—offer a prize to the waiter or waitress who earns the most money over one night. With that, the race is on among the staff to see who can up-sell the most expensive meal, who can earn the biggest tip, and who can talk the most trash.
Your servers tonight will be:
• Guy (Eric Stolhanske), who believes he can win, and will do whatever it takes to do so.
• Connor (Steve Lemme), who quit a year earlier after getting cast on a hit TV show. His character was killed off after two episodes, and now it’s back to being a waiter.
• Nuts (Jay Chandrasekhar), an odd but quiet guy who becomes something else altogether if he forgets to take his prescription medication.
• Mia (April Bowlby), a ballerina and blonde beauty who plans to use her good looks and flirtatious wiles to win.
• Tara (Cobie Smulders), a med school student whose knowledge of human anatomy comes in handy in unexpected ways.
• Donnie (Paul Soter), identical twin brother of the abrasive head chef. It’s his first day on the job as a busboy, but he’s immediately upgraded to waiter, even though he’s not what you’d call “bright.”
• Carl the manager (Nat Faxon), who not only has to oversee this bunch, but who has to keep the place running with the champ’s unpredictable eccentricities.
Here we have an “anything goes” comedy with an ensemble cast, in a similar tone and style to stuff like Reno 911! and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The characters are shallow, self-absorbed, greedy, and obnoxious. So, why should we care? I believe it’s because that, as crazy as this movie is, it’s also relatable. Most folks have done a tour of duty in food service at some point in their lives, and even more have been to restaurants, so we’ve all seen and/or experienced all the crap waiters and waitresses have to put up with. This movie takes that and dials it up several notches.
You have to give the performers credit for willing to humiliate themselves for the sake of a laugh. At least two characters are whacked out on (or off) mind-bending substances, and almost everyone gets in on the slapstick, taking some outrageous physical damage throughout the course of the story. More fun, for me, anyway, are all the sneaky things the staff does to trick customers into spending more, and also the unscrupulous ways they undermine each others’ efforts. As over-the-top as it all is, I can’t help but wonder how much of this is based on what really goes on behind the scenes at restaurants.
The standout among the cast would has to be Michael Clark Duncan, who truly throws himself into the part. The champ is none too bright, but he’s also formidable and threatening, so that it’s easy to believe that no one dares stand up to him, despite the often insane and stupid things he says and does. The writers have saved the best lines for him, too, giving him a strange sort of doublespeak, mixing and matching words in such a way that what he’s saying is way off, but we know what he means anyway. It’s a great running gag that the writers keep fresh throughout the movie.
A number of familiar faces show up in cameos as the restaurant’s customers, such as Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), Vivica A. Fox (Boat Trip), Olivia Munn (Big Stan), comedian Jim Gaffigan, and Will Forte (Saturday Night Live). They all do solid work, bringing a lot of character and humor to their smaller roles, often coming close to stealing the movie away from the main cast.
The visuals in The Slammin’ Salmon are bright and colorful, and the DVD’s picture quality shows them all off nicely. This is not a movie with a lot of big, booming audio, but the disc’s sound does the job. Two commentaries with members of the Broken Lizard gang highlight the extras. They’re loaded with equal parts behind the scenes info and outrageous laughs. A short featurette has the Lizards talking about real-life restaurant work in their younger days, with the original theatrical trailer finishing things off.
This is a lowbrow comedy with a predictable plot and a lot of cheap laughs. Nonetheless, I found it kind of endearing. The cast’s enthusiasm and energy makes up for the movie’s faults, so that it ends up quite enjoyable and humorous. Give it a rental.