There's been so many dumb, slapstick comedies in the past few years that the genre has really been brought back, if not quite as raunchy as some of the eighties pictures. "Saving Silverman", the latest entry from director Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore", "Big Daddy") offers several talented actors and a few chuckles, but there's a bit of blank space in-between the jokes that do work. Jason Biggs of "American Pie" plays Darren Silverman, another slight variation on the same character that he's been playing for every one of his roles now. He's been hanging out with Wayne (Steve Zahn) and J.D. (Jack Black) all his life, but once he meets up with Judith (Amanda Peet), she takes complete control of his life.
Shortly, his friends are out of his life, his Neil Diamond records are out of his life and Darren has begun to forgot about the one-time love of his life Sandy (Amanda Detmer). Judith even tells his friends, "He's my puppet and I'm his puppet master!" It's sort of hard to understand why Darren would fall in love with Judith enough for her to get engaged with her. Wayne and J.D come up with a plan to save Darren from the grip of marriage (and Judith in general), by breaking into her house and kidnapping her. Of course, neither the actual kidnapping or the act of holding her prisoner goes as planned. In other words, she beats the snot out of both of them and plays tricks on their mind whenever possible. They want to set Darren up with old flame Sandy and they get the two together - only problem: she's about to become a nun.
"Silverman" is often saved and ruined at the same time. Saved by Jack Black and Steve Zahn; two of the funniest comedians working in the business who attack this material as if they're fully invested in the low-brow material. Ruined by Jason Biggs, who was slightly better in "Loser", but really is completely bland in this film and simply stomped on by the far funnier and more entertaining duo of Black and Zahn. The amusing, beautiful Amanda Peet gets stuck in another thin role (although not nearly as bad as "Whipped"), but she does get a few nice showdowns with the duo when she's been kidnapped.
The jokes either often work slightly or simply meet with an indifferent response. There's a scene where Sandy proves her strength by throwing Darren over her head and he ends up in the Ocean. There's nothing funny about it. There are two versions of the DVD - a PG-13 version that was what everyone saw in theaters and an R-rated version that restores a couple of scenes and some raunchy dialogue for a total of about 9 minutes (99 minutes versus 90 minutes).
"Silverman" certainly isn't the worst low-brow comedy that I've had to sit through, but with the talent involved, the movie could really have been better if it had focused on the war between Peet's character and Zahn and Black. As is, it's a sporadically amusing little picture, but nothing memorable.
VIDEO: "Saving Silverman" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Columbia/Tristar. Although Tristar has slipped a little bit with a couple of recent releases, "Silverman" suprisingly looks exceptionally good. Sharpness and detail are terrific; the picture consistently looked smooth, bright and well-defined. Not the most visually interesting picture, filmed by cinematographer Arthur Albert (Norm MacDonald's "Dirty Work"), the picture still shows off a bright color scheme which translates well. Colors look bold, bright and well-saturated, with no instances of bleeding or smearing.
There's only a few very minimal problems throughout the presentation. I noticed a couple of tiny traces of pixelation as well as a tiny print flaw or two, but that was about it and certainly, none of these things were distracting. Edge enhancement is absent and the picture looked clear and clean for the majority. Overall, a top-notch effort.
SOUND: "Saving Silverman" mainly sticks to a comedy-style presentation when it comes to surround sound. The only real surround-sound effect in the movie is when Black's character gets his head dunked in a toilet bowl. Otherwise, the only time that the surrounds really get going is when the music comes on - otherwise, they're silent and the majority of the film's audio comes from the front, as expected. Audio quality seemed fine - the score came through clearly and had nice presence and dialogue sounded clear and crisp.
MENUS:: Nicely animated main menu with images of the characters.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Dennis Dugan. The commentary is a mixed bag - the director is often quite funny and informative about the production, but he sounds a bit despirate to sell the movie to the viewer. He constantly chats about what he likes and what scenes he thinks are funny (he thinks it's all funny). At one point, he even compares Biggs to Cary Grant. When he settles into the discussion though, he throws out a few funny stories about the making of the movie and does provide some interesting information about the cast and locations. The commentary track was recorded the Monday before the Friday that the film opened.
Also: Outtakes, trailers for Saving Silverman; Loser; Big Daddy; Cable Guy and Whipped; talent files.
Final Thoughts: Dumb and occasionally unfunny, "Silverman" does manage a few laughs thanks to Zahn and Black. Tristar has put together a nice minor "special edition", with a decent commentary and a few other supplements. Good for a rental.