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IN SHORT: As funny as [American] Pie. [Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and thematic material.]
We admit we're old enough to remember Neil Diamond's radio hits first hand. We also admit that we did a double take at the idea of a Gen-X aged Neil Diamond cover band whose existence and survival is at the heart of Saving Silverman, a film that gets more belly laughs out of genital torture than should be possible.
There is a big difference between a film which tries to get laughs by having one character deliberately hurt another (which director Dennis Dugan accomplished last in Adam Sandler's Big Daddy). It's a different story when the pain is accomplished accidentally, or in self-defense against total idiots. Saving Silverman hews to the latter and it's very funny. Long time readers know that we swore off private screenings of movies after Austin Powers, but this time of the year is slow and we broke the vow. The room was almost packed with other critics, all of em laughing hysterically. Us, too. Saving Silverman is all physical comedy and no dope jokes. It's a simple story that doesn't get tossed to the hinterlands in favor of a gag. All the subplots are neatly tied up in a bow by its conclusion which means the thing should have legs. When middle aged critics are bowed over at a film which is going to target at Gen-X, that's "legs".
Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), Wayne Le Fessier (Steve Zahn) and J.D. McNugent (Jack Black) have maintained the bonds of friendship since fifth grade, all tempered by a fanatical devotion to the music of Neil Diamond. Their band, "Diamonds in the Rough," plays for change and bits and pieces of Neil's lyrics wend their way into normal conversation. Though they hit the singles bars after every "gig," their love lives are the pits, with Darren still pining for Sandy who moved away years before. Through circumstances too stretched to recount, Darren is miraculously chosen by the lovely Judith (Amanda Peet) to be her companion. Judith is a psychologist. She is also a person who needs to be in control and, since she looks gangbusters in lingerie, Darren soon becomes slave to her every whim.
If the cost of love is the cessation of free will, so be it. If it means a final disconnect from your friends and your band -- make no doubt about it, Darren's friends are slobs and idiots -- ditto. Wayne and JD aren't about to take the loss of their pal lying down, especially when Sandy (Amanda Detmer) moves back into town. Their only hope is to get Judith out of the way and Darren into Sandy's heart. They've got less than a week to do it. They begin with a simple, late night kidnap attempt . . .
Idiots should not be allowed to possess stun guns or cattle prods. Judith has a couple of tricks to pull in her own defense as well. Even when they manage the foul deed, Darren won't let go of his lost love. Which means the idiots have to push the stakes up a notch and make Judith vanish . . . forever.
That idea comes from their high school football coach (R. Lee Ermey) who has his own set of rules to follow. I'll say it again. J.D. and Wayne are idiots. This is a comedy. Even if they manage to do what Coach tells them to do, something will surely come up to send the result spiraling out of control. Only the Great Neil (Neil Diamond, playing himself) can set everything right.
Net result? We laughed. We laughed hard. Just as hard as at American Pie. Different humor. Same results.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Saving Silverman, he would have paid...
Pack up the babies. Grab the old lady. Everyone go.
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