Eric D. Snider

Saving Silverman

When I tell you that "Saving Silverman" is very funny and entertaining, please don't think I'm saying it's not stupid, because it is. The people who made it would surely be first to admit that fact.

They'd be proud, too, and rightfully so. "Saving Silverman," about a young man whose friends try to save him from his possessive girlfriend, is a curious duck. It's not a gross-out teen comedy (except for a few brief instances). It's not a sex comedy (except for a few brief instances). It's not a satire of those genres, but it was obviously made by people who have seen them.

It's mostly a dark comedy -- the two friends kidnap the girlfriend and consider killing her -- with characters who are too good-natured to be the black-hearted denizens one normally sees in such a film.

Jason Biggs plays Darren Silverman, the poor shmoe stuck with Judith (Amanda Peet), a two-dimensionally domineering woman who won't have premarital sex and is prone to wearing tops that leave her breasts half-revealed. His friends since childhood are pest-control specialist Wayne (Steve Zahn) and musician J.D. (Jack Black). All three are in a Neil Diamond cover band, until Judith puts a stop to that and all of Darren's other fun.

Coincidental with Wayne and J.D.'s ill-hatched kidnapping plan (they chain Judith to a car engine in their garage) is a reunion with Sandy (Amanda Detmer), whom Darren loved in high school and, until recently, insisted was his one true love forever. With Judith apparently out of the way, all they have to do is get Sandy to forget her decision to become a nun and hook up with Darren instead.

I was struck with how much of a caricature Judith was. She literally had no human qualities, and I thought that was a mistake. Eventually, the film proved itself to be two-dimensional all the way through, and not in a bad way. The finale is fantastically over-the-top absurd, complete with a ridiculously happy ending (the real Neil Diamond is involved), and everyone behaves idiotically throughout. The broadly drawn characters are that way on purpose. It's not laziness on the part of the writers; it's a style, and it works well. Once you accept that it's all for laughs and not grounded in reality, it truly is very funny.

Biggs, Zahn and (especially) Black are talented comic actors when given the right material. There are several moments when all three seem to be floundering, swimming upstream against a flow of lame jokes. After that, though, the script catches up to them and Black and Zahn become a hysterically dumb comedy team, with Biggs as straight man.

There is some unforgivable crudeness, and certainly some badly conceived ideas. There will surely be funnier movies this year, but so far, this one's at the top.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13, scattered profanity, partial non-sexual nudity, some sexual vulgarity

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