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With: Jason Biggs, Jack Black, Steve Zahn, Amanda Peet, Amanda Detmer, R. Lee Ermey, Neil Diamond
Written by: Hank Nelken, Greg DePaul
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, and thematic material
Running Time: 93
Date: 02/07/2001

Saving Silverman (2001)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Save' Robbers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Comic energy pours out of Steve Zahn and Jack Black. But like most great comic actors, they need form, and something to do. Zahn's best work was in his small roles in Out of Sight (1998) and Hamlet (2000) (as the cinema's all-time best Rosencrantz), and Black was amazing in High Fidelity and Jesus' Son (both 2000). They also need, and deserve, decent foils; smart straight men that they can bounce off of. Sadly, Saving Silverman provides them with neither and they, along with the movie, sink into the slime of the Hollywood bog.

The movie's straight man is embodied by Jason Biggs, an actor perhaps even less talented and more annoying than Freddie Prinze Jr., if such a thing is possible. His credits include the dismissible American Pie (1999), Boys and Girls (2000, with Prinze), and Loser (2000). Biggs is forever playing a nerd with a bright outlook on life who perseveres no matter how bad things get. In Saving Silverman, he plays a former male cheerleader, which perfectly sums him up. He's the kind of kid you want to beat up in the parking lot after school.

The three friends go through life together in pizza-box and beer-bong bliss, happily playing in a Neil Diamond cover band, until Darren Silverman (Biggs) meets Judith (Amanda Peet), an evil, conniving, and powerful woman who longs to control him. Wayne (Zahn) and J.D. (Black) attempt to thwart their relationship and get Silverman together with his high school sweetheart (Amanda Detmer), who will soon be taking her final vows as a nun. To achieve this end, they kidnap Judith and hold her in their garage.

Written by Hank Nelken & Greg DePaul, Saving Silverman sounds like it might once have had the makings of a stark black comedy, but now it plays to the tune of an overwrought slapstick comedy, with lots of falling down and wrestling with small rabid animals. Moreover, director Dennis Dugan handles his movie as if he were performing heart surgery with a bowling ball. Dugan's other feature credits include Problem Child (1990), Brain Donors (1992), Happy Gilmore (1996), Beverly Hills Ninja (1997), and Big Daddy (1999), and Saving Silverman confirms a pattern of ineptitude.

So Zahn and Black, with all their talent, basically do nothing but tumble and yell a lot. Likewise, Amanda Peet has also shown promise as a comic actress, though she hasn't had Zahn's and Black's vehicles to prove it. She nearly stole The Whole Nine Yards (2000) from her co-stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry, though that film was nothing to write home about. That Dugan utterly fails to polish this diamond is yet another annoyance of Saving Silverman.

Speaking of diamonds, the film is slightly redeemed by the presence of Neil Diamond himself, in a kinda-funny cameo. But it's not redeemed enough for me to recommend it. In fact, I'd go so far as to advise you to change the channel when the ad comes on TV.

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