Whether calling The Slammin’ Salmon “more of the same” is a good or bad thing depends on whether you’re a fan of the previous films of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe.If you’ve laughed your way through the group’s antics as screwball cops (Super Troopers), vacation resort employees (Club Dread) and beer drinking contest participants (Beerfest), you will find, well, more of the same style of skewed sensibility and silliness that the group is known for. If you haven’t seen any of the group’s previous work, here is as good as any place to start. If you didn’t find Broken Lizard’s previous efforts to your taste, they won’t be converting you with this one.
A typical night at the upscale Miami restaurant The Slammin’ Salmon is thrown in to disarray when its owner, former boxing champ Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) informs the staff that they need to make $20,000 in receipts tonight so he can pay off a gambling debt to the Yakuza or else he will loose the restaurant. A contest is quickly organized and the waiter who brings in the most will get a free trip to a spa while the loser will get “a broken rib sandwich” from Salmon. Their competitive spirit ignited, nothing will go smoothly as one waiter goes off his psychiatric medications, another mercilessly hazes the new guy on the staff while a third waiter has to deal with returning to the job he thought he had left behind him for greener pastures.
Some are apt to draw comparisons between Slammin’ Salmon and Waiting…, the far less funny Ryan Reynolds-led ensemble comedy from 2005. While both focus on the wait staff of a restaurant, Slammin’ Salmon delivers more than Waiting… in a couple of important accounts. Whereas Waiting…‘s group of misfits are just going through a regular work day with nothing further motivating the characters, Slammin’ Salmon‘s contest driven storyline is the mechanism that kicks its characters’ quirks in to higher gear. Slammin’ Salmon‘s humor is also borne primarily out of the character’s interactions, while the cast of Waiting… seem more concerned about what abuse they could covertly heap on their customers next. There’s significantly less gross-out humor in Slammin’ Salmon and what there is of it is more firmly rooted in the plot than similar style jokes in Waiting….
But dissecting the joke often kills the patient. Broken Lizard member Kevin Heffernan takes over directorial duties from fellow troupe member Jay Chandrasekhar and does a fine job preserving the group’s humor while adding a few visual flourishes of his own that keeps the pace moving. Having helped with the editing of the group’s first two movies, Heffernan dexterously builds a couple of intricate physical gags, especially one involving hot soup.
The Broken Lizard crew all do good work with their characters, especially Paul Soter in the role of twins Dave and Donnie. While the split screen work done to have the pair appear in the same shot is pretty primitive more than 20 years after Michael J. Fox shared the screen with two other versions of himself in Back To The Future Part 2, there is some good editing and double work that sells the fight the two get into in the kitchen at one point in the film. April Bowlby and Colbie Smulders (Of TV’s How I Met Your Mother) manage to hold their own in roles with as much screen time as the Broken Lizard boys. And fans of the group’s previous films will spot several familiar faces amongst the restaurant’s clientele. The real star of the movie turns out to be Michael Clarke Duncan. As the Slammin’ Salmon’s somewhat dimwitted but ferocious owner Cleon Salmon, he spouts hilarious malapropisms while terrorizing his employees into working harder to raise the needed money. his performance is a far cry from his Oscar-nominee turn in The Green Mile and that makes it even more fun to behold.