One of the first books I read about the restaurant business was a title called Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. He describes the people who work at restaurants to be a band of misfits, those who are probably only there because of an irrational dedication to cooking. That would certainly describe the people who work at the Slammin Salmon, the latest comedy from Broken Lizard group.
Rich Ferente (played by Kevin Heffernan) is a down on his luck waiter. After a bout with some very disrespectful customers, he comes to the back with a tuna patty forcefully stuck in his mouth. He gets yelled at by the floor manager Carl (played by Nat Faxon) which causes Rich to quit on the spot. However Rich has to tell the Champ that he has quit and you know what happened to the last guy who did that? Ultimately Rich chickens out and runs away. Fast forward a year.
Rich is apparently still at his job, except now he is promoted and running the floor (one of many plot aspects that is never explained). The Champ is Cleon Salmon (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) and he runs the restaurant with an iron fist.
In the kitchen, we have Dave the top chef (played by Paul Soter). He brings in his twin brother, Donnie (also played by Soter) to bus the tables in the hope that he actually learns something.
There is a bevy of wait staff. We have Guy Metdrapedes (he’s Greek) (played by Erik Stolhanske) who apparently rather just score with the ladies.
Then there are two females, Tara(played by Cobie Smulders), a brunette & Mia (played by April Bowlby), a blonde. To polish it off, we have Nuts (played by Jay Chandrasekhar). Normally, he is a pretty calm and cool customer. However, when he doesn’t get his meds, he becomes somebody else.
Then we have a returning waiter, Conner (played by Steve Lemme). He worked as a waiter a while back, but then he got a starring role on the show CFI: Hotlanta only be killed off after two episodes. The staff also remembers him having a much larger nose. Nevertheless they get to work for what will turn out to be the most adventurous night they might ever experience.
It appears that Cleon has got into a bit of a gambling issue with the Yakuza. Apparently he owes twenty thousand. So he tells Rich that they must get $20,000 in sales or it won’t be pretty. Rich tries to offer the wait staff incentives such as Norah Jones tickets and then ups the ante to a 4 day, 3 night stay in Key Largo. The sales do appear to be healthy but they don’t quite live up to Cleon’s standards.
Cleon finally invites them all up to his office where he offers $10,000 to the waiter who brings home the most money including tips (yes, the logic behind that is certainly lost on me too). However, he also tells them that the loser gets a broken-rib sandwich. That certainly puts a spring into the waiter’s steps and Rich even puts Donnie on the floor to wait tables despite it being his first night on staff.
But then things start to unravel. Rich accidentally swallows a diamond engagement ring. Mia’s face catches on fire. Donnie is toasted due to some hazing from Connor and has to recover to wait tables. Nuts neglects to take his meds and so we get an unexpected visitor known only as Zongo. The question remains whether the wait staff can pull it together and raise $20,000 so that Cleon can pay off his little debt.
If there is one person who really saves this movie, it is the work of Michael Clarke Duncan. His work in Green Mile and Daredevil was certainly solid but here he really shows off his comedic chops. Jay Chandrasekhar also came off fairly brilliantly as his character went from one extreme to another and back again with near flawless execution.
But then the problems start. This movie is a jumbled mess from start to finish. The largest problem is forgotten plot devices. They start something, forget it, and then try to bring it back with little to no success. The easiest one to mention is the swallowing of the diamond ring. It starts off honest enough but it is clearly in the background where you thought it might be at the focus. Then somewhere near the end, hey it all worked out and we have the diamond ring back. You can probably guess how.
One of my favorites restaurant type movies in recent memory is Waiting with Ryan Reynolds. It had a strong story and worked the laughs very well. Slammin Salmon has no story and merely done as walking from one joke to the next. This wouldn’t be that bad if the jokes were actually funny. It runs around in circles and then the ending just happens and you are wondering why you didn’t watch Super Troopers for the tenth time instead.
There is one thing I did want to praise the movie for and that is how it used its extras. The film includes a multitude of customers ranging from Will Forte, Morgan Fairchild (as herself), Vivica A. Fox (who might as well have been herself), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), and Olivia Munn (G4: Attack of the Show). Jim Gaffigan also gets a 2 minute cameo as a hotel clerk that was pretty well done.
The video is shown in 1.78:1 Widescreen @ 1080p. The restaurant certainly comes alive and the picture does a good job of responding with the added high definition. There are people and details everywhere and I noticed you could read quite clearly a number of the signs around the restaurant. Colors are sharp and there isn’t too much you could really strike out against in the way of video. Solid presentation all the way around.
The audio is presented in English PCM 5.1 Uncompressed (Dolby Digital 5.1 also available). Along with the video, the soundtrack does a good job of accentuating the movie. The dialog is extremely clear which is a little bit amazing considering the very deep voice of one Michael Clarke Duncan. Surrounds are also used from time to time to make a point but outside of that, the sounds stay in the center channel. Subtitles are provided in English SDH & Spanish.
- Commentary with Kevin Heffernan & Steve Lemme: The first Broken Lizard commentary includes the director Kevin Heffernan (also plays the part of Rich Ferente) & Lemme who plays Conner. This is the more technical commentary though they crack a few jokes here and there to balance it out.
- Commentary with Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske, & Paul Soter : The second commentary includes the rest of the cast (that are part of the comedy troop) and this is basically the three going back and forth sharing stories, jokes and bringing out tidbits on the multitude of cast members. The weaker of the two if you had to pick one, but still a good listen.
- Hellish Kitchens: Life Imitates Art 6:51: The five members of Broken Lizard sitting in a van telling old war stories about being waiters, bus boys and other assorted restaurant positions. The stories are fairly humorous and it is easy to see their inspiration for the movie. Personally, the soft shell crab bit should have made it into the movie as it was the most instinct.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:34
In writing this review, I relied heavily on the work of my wonderful and beautiful wife, Sarah. She watched the movie diligently and left me behind a bevy of notes from which I conducted this review. I did watch the movie whole heartedly but she was the major fire to what you see here. Thank you my love as always.
In the end, we wish that we were watching either Super Troopers or Waiting rather than Slammin Salmon. Broken Lizard should have spent more time refining their comedy in this movie and told a more complete story. The director, Kevin Heffernan should have stayed behind the camera and found somebody else to play Rich (or vice versa) as it was clearly too demanding to serve properly on both responsibilities.
The disc at least delivers. The video and audio are more than adequate even if they won’t blow any viewer away. The extras include two very well done commentaries and one rather small featurette. As seems to be par for the course, the commentaries allude to deleted scenes and they are nowhere to be found in the extras section, which is a major guffaw to everybody involved. It’s hard to recommend this film even to Broken Lizard fans, so you’ll probably want to Netflix it if you are really that curious.