The Slammin' Salmon
Starz / Anchor Bay // R // $34.98 // April 13, 2010
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 18, 2010
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"You wanna know what my nickname for him was? Cunty McTwat — because he was such a pussy. Hey, why isn't anybody laughin'?"

Well, yeah, 'cause it's not funny. Neither is...well, pretty much anything else in The Slammin' Salmon, but who's counting?

Just to get this out of the way, I really do chalk myself up as a Broken Lizard fan. When they connect, the troupe is pretty brilliant: I really dug Super Troopers and Beerfest, and even with as rough around the edges as Puddle Cruiser can be, I'd check their first flick off in the 'win' column too. Whenever it's a swing-and-a-miss, though...yikes. You're stuck with something like The Dukes of Hazzard, Club Dread, and — drum roll! — The Slammin' Salmon.

So anyway, Slammin' Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) -- Heavyweight Champion of the World! -- retired from the boxing circuit undefeated. He was at it long enough to rake in a helluva lot of cash, and what Salmon didn't blow on kangaroos and oversized fish tanks, he funnelled into his ritzy Miami restaurant: The Slammin' Salmon. Thing is...? Salmon is kinda cash-poor these days, and he's twenty grand in the hole to a Yakuza boss after losing a bet on some Japanese albino hunting safari. He's only got till the end of the night to rake in enough cash from the restaurant to cover his debts. The Fracas in Caracas? No problem. The Dispute in Beirut? A cakewalk. Getting this bunch of screw-ups to shill $20K of crab legs and champagne? Yeah, that's a whole other thing. But hey, The Champ knows how to motivitivate his staff: the top-selling waiter trots out the door with ten grand in his-or-her pocket, and the loser winds up with a broken rib sammich. Of course, that means now they have to move thirty grand in seafood, but none of the belts the Champ has hanging on the wall say anything about math.

Okay, maybe you were expecting the setup to be followed by something like "...and hilarity ensues!" Oh, and I would've if...y'know, hilarity had, in fact, ensued. Nope. It didn't. Look, I'm a pretty cheap date when it comes to comedy. Point and laugh if you want, but I'm the guy who gave Sex Drive and Fired Up deliriously positive write-ups a while back. Hey, I'm all for a good dick/balls/fart joke. The problem with The Slammin' Salmon is that these are thirtysomething year old dick/balls/fart jokes. It's a cross between whatever sitcom came on after The Head of the Class in 1987 with some "haha, the fat man said 'balls'!" gag from 5th grade gym. Case...well, cases in point:

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"...and I walked out of there with a Bangladeshi hooker. I banged her deshi all night long."
"I was just kidding about the anal! I was just bored at the hotel and lookin' for something to do with my cock! Perfectly natch. Come on, take a look at her! You wouldn't kick in that back door? Fuck this!"
"Ten grand — I got my eye on a leather couch with a velvet dickhole in it."
"The Champ wants a big night tonight, so he is offering a prize to the top-selling waiter!"
"Ooooh, is it cash?"
"It's not cash, but it's something better."
"What, a blowjob from your mutha?"
"Hahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Oh!"
"No, no, it's not a blowjob from my mother."

So, here's my terrible analogy: I first got hooked on stand-up back in the '80s, and there was this subhuman class of comedians I called "spork comics". They'd half-assedly throw together a bit without much of a setup, and the punchline was that they worked the word "spork" into the last sentence or two. You were supposed to laugh because a guy in front of a brick wall said "spork" into a mic. No wit, no spark of brilliance, nothing approaching actual comedy...just "spork". That's all
...but at least there are pretty girls.
Broken Lizard is really doing here, only swap out "spork" for "balls" or "blowjob". Most of the gags here aren't jokes in the sense of...y'know, jokes. They don't grab the vulgarity or whatever and yank it in some unexpected direction: they just say "balls" and pause a beat for you to laugh. The madcap hijinks! are completely forgettable, like the restaurant manager accidentally scarfing down a quarter-million dollar engagement ring and spending all night trying to poop it out. The new busboy is duped into chugging booze that makes his lips blue, and then The Champ quips that it looks like he got a blowjob from Papa Smurf. Get it?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Michael Clarke Duncan is stuck with a bunch of Tyson-esque word mangling that's about as stale as "where's the beef?", and his catchphrase is screaming "whatever, muthafucka!" Picture me disappointedly shaking my head right now.

Don't get me wrong: there are brief — very, very, very, very brief moments of inspiration. The Slammin' Salmon sports a lovingly choreographed ballet sequence that culminates in an overly flirty waitress getting a first degree burn from a bowl of overcooked soup, and just when you're duped into thinking the movie's taken that gag as far as it could possibly go, it one-ups itself. Later on, The Champ suckerpunches a swordfish, and one of the waiters forgot to take his meds and has a fever dream where he's serving salmon to a tableful of kitty cats. (Well, that seemed kinda inspired to me, anyway.) Otherwise...? Blah. Even with as easy a mark as I am, there's not a single, solid laugh anywhere in the entire movie. At least The Slammin' Salmon can coast on the charms of its cast a little. Putting the fearless April Bowlby and the too-cute-for-words Cobie Smulders on the payroll to play the two waitresses was definitely a smart move. Seeing Will Forte, Olivia Munn, Lance Henriksen, Sendhil Ramamurthy, and Morgan Fairchild briefly distracted me from the sheer enormity of the comedic void devouring everything in sight.

There's just really not much of anything clever, shocking, witty, or subversive on the bill here. It took this independently produced flick a couple of years to line up a distributor, and it's not so tough to pick up on why no one wanted to bite. The Slammin' Salmon is a room temperature comedy with a sub-direct-to-video sense of humor. Who cares if the chef gets pissed about it? Send this undercooked comedy back for another pass on the grill, and I really do apologize in advance for such a shitty food analogy. Skip It.

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The Slammin' Salmon was shot on the cheap and...yeah, you can kinda tell. Whatever film stock Broken Lizard fished out of the back of the closet doesn't really translate all that well to high-def. I mean, you can tell with just a quick glance that this is HD, but this whole thing looks more like something I'd catch on HBO-HD or something rather than a shiny, newly-minted Blu-ray disc. The photography leans kinda soft, and detail and definition are both several notches below average for a day-and-date Blu-ray release. Color saturation doesn't rank much higher than okay, and the grain structure is pretty muddy and indistinct. The Slammin' Salmon was shot on film but has a very digital look to it...artificially smoothened a bit and then sharpened to try to compensate. Some fairly distracting aliasing even creeps in. There's also some annoying motion blur in a bunch of shots early on, but that's explained away as being intentional in one of the disc's commentary tracks. I think this all might stem from some poor choices being made during the digital intermediate stage since the trailer looks pretty much the exact same way, but...whatever. Even for a microbudget indie, The Slammin' Salmon is one of the most lackluster lookin' day-and-date releases to wash up on Blu-ray in a pretty long while.

The Slammin' Salmon is served up on a single layer Blu-ray disc. There's no matting or anything this time around -- straightahead 1.78:1 -- and the video's been encoded with VC-1.

Annoyingly, The Slammin' Salmon defaults to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbps) track, but if you mash the 'Audio' button on your remote or hit up the 'Setup' menu first, there's an uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack lurking around here too.

It's a standard issue, straight-off-the-shelf comedy mix, though: all of the dialogue rooted front and center, minimal ambiance in the surrounds, and pretty much nothing bobbing around in the low-end except for punchier notes in the score. So yeah, you get some clinking cutlery and crowd chatter in pretty much every speaker, and every once in a while, an effect like a 1st-degree-burn-induced-scream will roar from behind, but otherwise...? Might as well be two-point-oh stereo. The LFE can be gigantic when the score kicks the point of sounding overcooked, almost...but that's just about all the subwoofer has to do. Some of the punches and pratfalls are reinforced with a decent amount of bass too, I guess. So, to sum it up...competent but forgettable? Sure, I'll roll with that.

There aren't any dubs — y'know, if you wanna hear how to say "motherfucker" en español — but there are subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.

Not much. There aren't any deleted scenes or anything, and the only outtake reel is what plays over the end credits.
  • Audio Commentaries: It's kind of a Broken Lizard tradition to split the troupe down the middle (well, as close as you can get with five guys on the bill) and then hammer out two commentary tracks. The
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    first one with director Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme is a bit more technically-oriented and a whole helluva lot more focused. All the camera jargon is rattled off here, along with notes about how the identical twin trick was pulled off, an orange smoothie standing in for puke, putting a fire spitter on the payroll for Face Scorching Mark Deux, and recycling the exact same sound effects from the end of Rocky III. It's not just all shop talk, though: you also get to hear Steve Lemme tearing through a bunch of the Champ's dialogue in a Mike Tysonish squeak, how one of the Broken Lizard guys really did shove five lbs. of cole slaw down his pants while quitting in a blaze of glory, pointing out a love triangle that got snipped out, and revealing that Heroes alum Sendhil Ramamurthy was a lowly P.A. on Puddle Cruiser fifteen years back. Huh.

    Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske, and Paul Soter cram into the recording booth for the second track. It's kinda laid-back and quippy, which would be great if the commentary were...y'know, funny, but no, not so much. Kinda quiet...low energy...there are a few okay notes scattered around in here, like the key grip-slash-Kevin Heffernan's brother auditioning to host Blue's Clues, one of the guys taking a speed reading class at a community college, mulling over what "CFI" might stand for, pointing out a couple of cartoonishly oversized background gags I completely missed the first time through, and touching on the dos-and-don'ts of working with jaguar-ocelot-whatever stage cats on a movie set.

    Even though I wasn't into the movie so much, I actually dug the commentary with Heffernan and Lemme. The other one's kind of a waste of time, though, and I don't really get why they didn't just record one track with the five of 'em together.

  • Hellish Kitchens: Art Imitates Restaurant Life (7 min.; HD): The only featurette on this Blu-ray disc pretty much amounts to an HDV camcorder awkwardly passed around a noisy van while the Broken Lizard guys chat about their most nightmarish experiences doing the whole waiting tables thing. "Hellish Kitchens" seems like kind of an afterthought, and the van is so. fucking. loud. that I could barely make out what they were saying in the first place. There's one story about suffering through overentitled models while working as a P.A. on a video shoot and something about an asshole chef who flipped out when asked to split a soft-shell crab six ways, but...whatever.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): A high-def theatrical (?) trailer rounds out the extras.

The Final Word
The Slammin' Salmon isn't the worst Broken Lizard flick — nope, that nod still goes to Club Dread — but "not completely unwatchable" is about the best thing I can dig up for this one. Broken Lizard seems to be on this weird rhythm where they'll hammer out one hysterically brilliant comedy and follow it up with something that kind of limps around laughlessly, and The Slammin' Salmon falls more on that direct-to-video-sequel-to-Waiting... end of the spectrum. Oh well. Don't bother with this one, but I guess that one-on-one-off pattern oughtta mean that whatever Broken Lizard comes up with next should be really great. Fingers crossed. This one, though...? Skip It.

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