Save your breath

Movie: Saving Silverman

Our Rating: 2.00

"Saving Silverman" is a no-apologies dopey comedy that happily hovers at high silliness, only to resort here and there to filler that's the dialogue equivalent of chewing sawdust.

The story involves three guys who have been friends since grade school, with the bond between them sealed by beer funnels and a mutual love for the collected works of Neil Diamond. The two who are unadulterated dolts, Wayne (Steve Zahn) and J.D. (Jack Black), live together in a house where the cracks in the floorboards are likely packed with bits of pizza and nachos cemented by the beer showered whenever their football team makes a touchdown. (Note that this pair, in essence, constitutes the extreme worst-case scenario of male behavior that makes a typical woman cringe.

"Saving Silverman" portrays the female nightmare that men, when left to themselves, will revert to some sort of grubby repertoire: Guys just want to slobber, grunt, scratch and sit in sticky recliners, unambitious about careers and even sex, which they talk about but which alarmingly fades when something like wrestling is on TV. But I digress.)

The third, Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), is more considerate than his friends, more sensitive, but utterly spineless once he falls into the clutches of the cold, heartless, va-va-voom sexy Judith (Amanda Peet), a psychiatrist who all but puts a collar and leash on Silverman once she decides to marry him. (Note that Silverman and Judith, on the other hand, are the prime personifications of what males fear. He's a powerless wimp -- pussy-whipped, to be blunt. She uses her beauty and intelligence to conquer men, and really, she hardly needs a man at all, certainly not for the old standbys of protection, money or power. Faced with a Judith, a man's utterly expendable.)

Wayne and J.D. watch in horror as Judith takes Silverman out of their lives. (More than anything else, "Saving Silverman" is about Amanda Peet's breasts. No character comments on Judith's wardrobe, which consists of plunging, how-does-it-stay-in-place dresses worthy of Jennifer Lopez at last year's Golden Globes. Those breasts petrify these guys. Men, "Saving Silverman" seems to be saying, are really much less comfortable with sexuality than are women.) Eventually Wayne and J.D. set about rescuing their buddy from the clutches of this wicked witch. A stun gun, a tranquilizer dart, a grave robbery and several defenestrations come into play as they get Judith out of the picture. The whole plan hinges on setting up Silverman with his high-school sweetheart, the blond, wide-eyed, angelic Sandy (Amanda Detmer), who is, unfortunately, about to embark on a career as a nun. (The running joke is that Judith can beat up all the men, and she's even on the receiving end of a few punches, which completely desexualizes her. Peet remains a good sport throughout. With the Sandy character the movie has some fun with the old angel/whore dichotomy.)

All in all this is dumb, preteen silliness, slapstick with only mild gross-out ambitions, all wrapped in intermittent touches of wit. At one point there's a gag poking fun at a mime, and I'm willing to overlook several half-funny moments if a movie includes one good mime joke. Likewise, Jack Black is in something of a grace period where he can do no wrong, thanks to his hilarious deadpan work as a hospital attendant in Jesus' Son. In contrast, the only other thing poor Jason Biggs can point to on his resume is American Pie. He's one step away from the Hollywood slag heap.

Make no mistake, much of the dialogue falls flat. But "Saving Silverman" picks itself up quickly enough and resumes its meaningless inanity.

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