Saving Silverman: Brain Not Necessary
By Steve Hofstetter
As I walked into â€œSaving Silvermanâ€, a man in his late 20s ambled toward me with a smile on his face.
â€œShut it off!,â€ the man cried. â€œShut it off!â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t like the movie?,â€ I asked.
â€œI loved it,â€ he replied. â€œI was referring to your brain.â€
He was right. If youâ€™re looking to enjoy Saving Silverman, do not expect to be emotionally moved or to see a cinematic triumph. Go in expecting the movie to be fall down funny - and I donâ€™t mean so funny that youâ€™ll fall out of your chair laughing. Rather youâ€™ll watch people fall down and think itâ€™s pretty funny.
The story of Saving Silverman is your basic boy-meets-gorgeous-yet-heartless-bitch. Throw in some nuns in a gym, a fair amount of Amanda Peetâ€™s cleavage, and a lot of Neil Diamond music, and you have yourself a movie.
But like the gentleman said, youâ€™ll have to shut your brain off before you enter. And with it, flip the switch on your disbelief, your morals, and your sense of whatâ€™s possible. But guys, leave your libido on - it comes in handy a number of times.
Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), JD (Jack Black), and Wayne (Steve Zahn) are proto-typical 20-something losers who begin their friendship in middle school, continue it through high school, and currently maintain it through a Neil Diamond cover band. None of them have been with a girl in years, and so when Darren meets the striking Judith (Amanda Peet), he falls for her instantly. The only problem is that Judith is pure evil, and only cares for Darren because of what she can make him do. Either Amanda Peet is an excellent actress or sheâ€™s the biggest bitch this side of the Westminster Kennel club.
Despite the camera accidentally showing her nipple, Peetâ€™s character is very tough to like, leaving the audience rooting for Wayne and JD to destroy the couple and reclaim their friend. Enter Sandy (Amanda Dettmer), Darrenâ€™s high school crush that has just moved back into the neighborhood - in order to become a nun.
Dettmer and Peet share a first name, are both stunning, and both have bra scenes. But interpreting those similarities is the only thinking youâ€™ll have to do throughout the picture.
Dennis Dugan directed Saving Silverman, like Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore, and Problem Child before it. And like those other Dugan films, Saving Silverman follows the age-old Hollywood formula: as long as you get the laugh, it doesnâ€™t matter how far you went to get it. Face it: when a nun says â€œletâ€™s go bust out some power squats,â€ people will laugh more often than not.
But in case no one busts a gut on their own, Dugan provides helpful hints to his audience. The typical formula involves some slapstick action, fast paced music in the background while the action heightens, followed by some sort of resolution. It happens when Wayne is attacked by a raccoon, it happens when Judith gets flipped over the back of a chair and stands up covered in salsa, and it especially happens when Darrenâ€™s nipples are accidentally set on fire. But just in case that wasnâ€™t enough, Dugan throws in the occasional oriental guy falling down a long staircase and muttering a distinctly audible â€œscrotumâ€ as he lays crumpled on the floor.
Not everything, however, is formulaic. R. Lee Ermey, known mainly for his serious military roles in movies like â€œFull Metal Jacketâ€ and â€œApocalypse Nowâ€, plays the boysâ€™ high school football coach-turned convict, and does a startlingly good job. Though the difference between a drill sergeant and a high school football coach isnâ€™t tremendous, Ermey seems to find himself as at home in a comedic role as he was in the Tet Offensive.
Dettmer turns in a sexy yet girl-next-door performance as Sandy, making males everywhere thankful that Dettmer has never considered nunning as an off-screen profession. Dettmer is the breakthrough star of the film, with this being her biggest role thus far in her career. Though lack of screen-time forces her character to end still relatively undeveloped, Dettmer does well with what sheâ€™s given, and looks like sheâ€™ll be given a lot more in the future.
Jason Biggs will have to play a few dozen more roles before he begins shedding the dessert-loving reputation he earned with â€œAmerican Pieâ€, but was able to play a pathetic nice guy fairly adeptly. Steve Zahn played the loserish leader of the group so well that it was frightening - at least for the actorâ€™s wife. And Jack Blackâ€™s slovenly obnoxious half-wit character previously seen in â€œHigh Fidelityâ€ and â€œCradle Will Rockâ€ was back, seemingly with something to prove. Black easily added getting his head shoved into a toilet and eating pasta with stockings on his face to his vast repertoire of hijinx. The only actor that wasnâ€™t convincing was Neil Diamond, ironically playing himself. Though it is still possible that Diamond played himself to a tee, and the singer is just as cheesy in real life as his character was in the film.
Dugan, along with writers Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul, uses some conventions, like having characters often saying phrases similar to â€œI remember whenâ€¦â€ before each flashback. But unconventional is the pairing of Biggs with Peet, who is seven years Biggsâ€™ senior. Biggs, who turns 23 later this year, earned his fame playing a high school student. Peet, who is already 29, earned hers playing a mid-20s woman on her own in New York - if you donâ€™t count her full frontal nudity in â€œThe Whole Nine Yardsâ€ as how she was truly discovered.
Saving Silverman does not attempt to be the perfect date movie or anything to see with your parents. Saving Silverman is for people who want to escape from the grind of their thought process and just laugh at dating, at friendship, and especially at Neil Diamond.
The movie is not for everyone. Itâ€™s perfectly natural to laugh at someone getting a tazer to their crotch, but some people willingly prevent themselves from ever finding that sort of thing funny. As Judith says, â€œSometimes you have to make cold rational decisions. You canâ€™t always follow your heart.â€
On line at the box office was a white woman in her late 50s. She asked what movies began in the next half hour, and was told that her choices were â€œSave the Last Danceâ€ - about a young white dancer at an all black school, and â€œSaving Silverman.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s that one about?,â€ the woman inquired.
â€œItâ€™s a slapstick comedy about some kids trying to stop their friend from getting married.â€
The woman paused. â€œGive me one to â€˜Save the Last Dance.â€™â€
Maybe she just doesnâ€™t find Neil Diamond that funny.