- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

The Broken Lizard comedy troupe — the minds behind the cult hit “Super Troopers” and also “Club Dread” and “Beerfest” — returns to the big screen this weekend with “The Slammin’ Salmon,” an absurdist take on one crazy night in a Miami restaurant.

The setup is pretty simple and not particularly important: Boxer-turned-restaurateur Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) has incurred a hefty debt to the Yakuza, the Japanese mob, and the only way he can pay it off is if his restaurant, Slammin’ Salmon, can do $20,000 worth of business in one evening.

In order to whip the service staff into a lobster-hawking frenzy, their manager, Rich (Kevin Heffernan) promises a series of escalating prizes to the waiters for whoever brings in the most cash before Cleon jumps in with an offer of $10,000 to the evening’s premier server. The loser, meanwhile, gets a “broken rib sandwich.” That is not a metaphor: Cleon is the former champ, after all.

Needless to say, all manner of hilarity ensues, and although it’s a little slow at the outset and occasionally a trifle predictable, “The Slammin’ Salmon” is still a rollickin’ time at the theater.

The Broken Lizard troupe — Mr. Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske — all share screenwriting credit, as is their custom, and all do some serious heavy lifting in the performance department.

Sure, the waiters might all sound like stereotypes — Nuts (Mr. Chandrasekhar) has obsessive-compulsive disorder and goes off his meds; Connor (Mr. Lemme) is a failed actor forced back into waiting tables; Guy (Mr. Stolhanske) is a South Beach ladies’ man with a pompadour and a fake tan; and Dave (Mr. Soter) is a busboy promoted to waiter for the evening whose twin brother, Donnie (also Mr. Soter) works in the kitchen — but the quirky way they play the characters gives them a certain liveliness that belies those descriptions.

It helps that the actors have been making films together for almost a decade; their timing and comfort level with one another has evolved to the point that it comes across as effortless.

One of the real joys of the Broken Lizard troupe is its ability to seamlessly integrate other actors into the action — Brian Cox’s turn in “Super Troopers,” for example, or Cloris Leachman’s role in “Beerfest.” Mr. Duncan is no exception to the rule, but given his previous performances in comedies including “The Whole Nine Yards” and “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” that shouldn’t be too surprising.

★★★
TITLE: “The Slammin’ Salmon”
RATING: R (pervasive language and sexual references)
CREDITS: Directed by Kevin Heffernan
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
WEB SITE: www.brokenlizard.com/home/slamminsalmon.html
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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