Beyond salvation

Saving Silverman

Steve Zahn and Jack Black yell at their agents for giving them the scripts for  <i>Saving Silverman</i>.

Steve Zahn and Jack Black yell at their agents for giving them the scripts for Saving Silverman.

Rated 1.0

Saving SilvermanWalking into Saving Silverman, I had my worries: Would this film be a Jack Black film—Black being he who can do no wrong in my book? Or, would it be a Jason Biggs film—Biggs being he who makes me laugh at an alarmingly slow rate, he whose best screen moment to date involves having sexual intercourse with a pie?

After about a fourth of this film had passed, I got my answer. This is a Jason Biggs movie, meaning it’s woefully lacking in the hilarity department. Its focus is on a character played by an actor who should be saving every penny he’s making at the movies lately, because the magic is definitely gone.

Dammit! God Dammit! God freaking dammit! God freaking “How can you have Jack Black in your film and screw it up?” dammit!

The first mistake is plain and simple: Black is cast as the funny, dumb, fat-guy sidekick. You know, the “Philip-Seymour-Hoffman-in-Twister” role. Until now, Black has been present in a few stinkers (that Rastafarian kooky guy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer is, and probably always will be, his worst screen moment), but he mostly appears in subversive, witty, intelligent fare. There is no place for Jack Black in a Jason Biggs film. He’s as out of place as John Malkovich in a kooky beach party movie.

The plot, if you should care, has unlucky-in-love Silverman (Biggs) hooking up with a domineering, manipulative woman (get a new agent, Amanda Peet), much to the dismay of his two best friends (Black and Steve Zahn). The two friends decide they must “save Silverman,” and they hatch a plot to kidnap Peet and then fix up Silverman with the subject of his high school lust (Amanda Detner).

A few laughs do occur, courtesy of Black and Zahn, and the film pretty much would’ve benefited from a plot that revolved around them. Unfortunately, this is some sort of There’s Something About Mary wannabe, evidenced by the “high school-one-and-only love” subplot and a moment with a raccoon reminiscent of Ben Stiller’s scrape with a cranked-up terrier.

Biggs is the romantic lead, and the focal point of the film.You have a real problem when you are sifting through a film’s moments with its lead actor to get to the supporting subplot. Biggs is terribly miscast here (he’s no Ben Stiller), making three-fourths of this film unwatchable. Black, Zahn and a funny turn by R. Lee Ermey as a violent football coach are the only things intermittently tolerable.

That’s not to say Jack Black almost saves the day. He does provide a few manic laughs, but he’s also gratingly bad at times. Director Dennis Dugan, who has had some luck with Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, sporadic moments in Big Daddy), clearly doesn’t know how to harness the Black weirdness. In fact, Black feels far too harnessed in this movie, restrained from letting loose with anything improvisational or fresh. He’s just a fat mouse running through a maze to get the hunk of cheese (in this case, his first $1 million payday). It’s embarrassing.

Most of the comedy ranks just below Mel Brooks in his declining years. There’s awful gags regarding nuns, the elderly, trapeze artists and an especially embarrassing depiction of a horny Asian man that brings the words “racist sludge” to mind.

Black, Zahn and Biggs have a Neil Diamond cover band, and Diamond himself shows up for a mildly amusing cameo. Let it be noted that you are in super trouble if you’re relying on Neil Diamond for your film’s big laughs.

I’m sure Jason Biggs is a nice fellow, but his movies blow aardvarks. Jack Black fans, do not worry: Tenacious D still reigns, and Saving Silverman is but a pothole on his path to glory.