The Broken Lizard comedy troupe’s humor is located somewhere between adhering to and subverting convention, an awkward space that’s as likely to elicit dead silence as laughter. That’s unfortunately the case with The Slammin’ Salmon, an erratic comedy about a single hectic night at the titular Miami restaurant, owned and insanely operated by former heavyweight boxing champion “Slammin’” Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). Think of it as Big Night but with far more cock jokes, though that description likely implies more off-the-wall insanity than is actually delivered by these fitful proceedings.
The story focuses on a wait staff earnings competition that they believe will net them a luxury grand prize but, in fact, has been orchestrated by Cleon to help pay back $20,000 owed to the yakuza because of a lost wager over Japanese albino hunting. If that premise seems tossed off, it’s because Broken Lizard is interested in establishing a nonsense scenario that affords opportunities for stream-of-consciousness craziness. Yet to an even greater degree than in their prior efforts, Slammin’ Salmon spends an inordinate amount of time on narrative elements that have minimal to no amusement potential, as with recurring references to a failed actor’s (Steve Lemme) nose job and supposed on-set dalliance with Morgan Fairchild, or an orangey-tan narcissist’s (Erik Stolhanske) frustration over a customer (Will Forte) more interested in reading War and Peace than ordering a meal.
Though directed by Kevin Heffernan rather than the usual Lizard helmsman Jay Chandrasekhar, the film isn’t any uglier than its antecedents, but it is (with the possible exception of Club Dread) more lethargic, this despite the fact that Duncan knocks more than a few jokes out as lunatic Cleon, a behemoth whose physical threats of violence are matched by Mike Tyson-esque verbal faux pas and a stupidly funny catchphrase “Whatever, motherfucker!” Most disheartening about their latest, however, is that despite a few choice instances of cliché-twisting screwiness, Slammin’ Salmon finds Broken Lizard’s approach calcifying into convention, from the use of one name-brand star, to Chandrasekhar again playing a weirdo with a penchant for hallucinatory mental breakdowns, to a gag about twins that pales in comparison to its Beerfest predecessor.