Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Saving Silverman: Special R Rated Version (2001)
Studio Line: Columbia TriStar - They swore nothing could come between them. Then she came along.

Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), Wayne Lefessier (Steve Zahn) and J.D. McNugent (Jack Black) have been best friends since the fifth grade.

Enter Judith (Amanda Peet), a cold-hearted beauty who digs her claws into sweet-natured Darren. She snatches him from his friends and even breaks up their cover band. J.D. and Wayne try every imaginable scheme to save Darren - and their friendship - but fail miserably. When they find out Darren has been brainwashed into marrying Judith, the dim-witted duo decide to kidnap her and reunite Darren with his long-lost love, before she becomes a nun!

Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, Jack Black, Amanda Peet, R. Lee Ermey, Amanda Detmer, Neil Diamond
Box Office: Budget: $22 million. Opening Weekend: $7.411 million (2467 screens). Domestic Gross: $19.351 million.
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 & Dolby Surround; subtitles English, French; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 28 chapters; rated R; 96 min.; $24.95; street date 7/17/01.
Supplements: Audio Commentary with Director Dennis Dugan; Outtakes Reel; Theatrical Trailers; Filmographies; Production Notes.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B/B+/C+

A few years back, I met a woman through a personal ad and chatted with her on the phone. This conversation was a tremendous drag, as it was clear that she and I had nothing in common. Frankly, the woman was not too bright, and she had little personality to compensate for her lack of intelligence.

Despite the distinct absence of any sparks between us, I agreed to meet her for dinner based on one possibility: that she might be hot. This woman hadn’t offered any clues to her appearance, which wasn’t a great sign; if you look good, you might want to hint at that fact. Nonetheless, I held out hope that she might be a babe.

Boy, did I make a mistake! In person, this woman turned out to be just as dull and dense as she appeared on the phone, and her physical charms did nothing to compensate for her lack of personality. If anything, her appearance exacerbated the situation; this was one ugly woman!

After that experience, I vowed never to go against my gut instincts just because of the faint hope that I might meet a babe. I’ve been pretty good about this, but I must admit I violated the spirit of this pact when I decided to review the new DVD of Saving Silverman.

This movie came and went quickly during its February 2001 theatrical run. Apparently audiences have finally started to tire of gross-out flicks in the There’s Something About Mary vein; in addition to Silverman, a slew of other movies in that vein hit screens last winter and spring, and all quickly died on the vine. Silverman couldn’t even regain its modest $22 million budget, as it petered out with an eventually take of $19 million.

I had no desire to see the film theatrically, so why did I bother with the DVD? Two reasons: “R”-rated cut, and Amanda Peet. During its big-screen run, Silverman featured a “PG-13” cut, but the DVD release would offer a longer “R”-rated edition that packed in an extra few minutes of footage.

Peet has yet to appear in an actual good movie, but she did make a substantial impact during the generally mediocre The Whole Nine Yards. She provided one of that flick’s few bright spots, especially when she stripped and showed us her lovely assets. Frankly, I doubt I’d even remember Nine Yards were it not for that factor, but Peet looked good - darned good!

As such, I decided to give Silverman a shot solely due to my hope that Peet would provide similar exposure. If you’re of like mind, let me save you the effort: Peet showed no skin in Silverman. Yeah, she wore some revealing outfits, but the only nudity we see came from some topless prostitutes and a quick shot of Amanda Detmer’s butt.

Apparently the “R”-rated version mainly reinstated crude language and situations that were too raunchy for the “PG-13” edition; I’m not clear if the brief nudity also appeared in the theatrical version, but anyone who expected a skin upgrade of the sort found in the unrated Road Trip will leave disappointed.

Anyway who expected to discover a witty and entertaining film will also feel abandoned, as Saving Silverman was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while. Actually, I suppose the flick itself could have been worse, but since it involved some good acting talent, I thought it had some potential.

Unfortunately, a line on the DVD’s cover alerted me to the movie’s actual potential: when you see the words “from the director of Big Daddy”, run away screaming. During the decade or so since Dennis Dugan started to direct films, he’s quickly become synonymous with crap. His first effort was 1990’s Problem Child, a flick that remains quite possibly the most distasteful and unamusing picture ever made; it falls on a short list of my least favorite films. From there Dugan made something called Brain Donors - I have no idea about it - before he achieved his main claim to fame with 1996’s Happy Gilmore. Of all Adam Sandler’s bigger films, Happy is the only one I’ve yet to see. I’d like to do so, but the presence of Dugan in the director’s chair scares me.

After another dud with 1997’s Beverly Hills Ninja, Dugan hit the big time with 1999’s Big Daddy. Although that film cleaned up at the box office, I thought it was Sandler’s worst flick, at least among those in which he starred. Silverman marked Dugan’s first effort as an official successful director.

Back to the “B-list” with you, sonny! Silverman was a total disaster, both creatively and financially. The film’s story is quite basic. It follows three long-time friends. We have Wayne Lefessier (Steve Zahn), J.D. McNugent (Jack Black), and Darren Silverman (Jason Biggs), buddies since grade school. Each movie in this genre needs a wacky twist, and Silverman’s comes from the boys’ fascination with Neil Diamond. Wayne was born during a Diamond show, and the three play in a Neil cover band called Diamonds in the Rough.

The Diamond connection pays off in the end, but for most of the movie, it has little to do with the plot. Instead, we find that Silverman is unlucky in love. Actually, all of the boys fail to succeed with the babes, but this movie prefers to spotlight Darren’s problems. He still seems to pine after Sandy (Detmer), the cutie from high school he never got up the guts to ask out on a date.

Put simply, Silverman’s a wussy boy, and when he meets Judith (Peet), she discovers how easily manipulated he can be. She seems to like this, so they soon become a serious couple. Judith doesn’t like Darren’s crude and obnoxious friends, and she quickly pushes him around and dictates what he can and cannot do.

Wayne and J.D. worry that Darren’s heading down the wrong path, especially when he declares that he and Judith are engaged. Their attempts to reason with Darren fail, and other stabs at breaking up the couple fail. As such, they take drastic measures and kidnap Judith. Of course, since J.D. and Wayne are low on the evolutionary scale, they run into many problems in this regard, but at least it separates Darren and Judith, especially when the boys falsify her death.

Another complication ensues when Sandy returns to town. Though she’s about to take her vows as a nun, Wayne and J.D. try to hook her up with Darren. The plot thickens from there.

Unfortunately, it never gels, and the film comes across as a loose conglomeration of comic bits. That might be acceptable, as other flicks have functioned with less-than-stellar plots; for example, the two Wayne’s World movies were fun despite little coherence. However, the comedy in Silverman could not possibly be less witty and entertaining. The film features the usual form of crude and tasteless “humor” that made it painful to watch.

Silverman generated one laugh from me, due to one well-delivered line from Neil Diamond late in the film. Otherwise, this was a totally witless Farrelly brothers wannabe that showed no intelligence, cleverness, or inspiration. Most of the actors have appeared in much better work, and they deserved a stronger project.

Zahn seems to have fallen the furthest, perhaps because I still have the happy memory of That Thing You Do! in my mind. Zahn was a comedic highlight in that splendid flick, and he’s also been solid in flicks like Out of Sight. Unfortunately, when the material is no good, there’s not much he can do with it, as Zahn showed in Happy, Texas. Since he was also called “Wayne” in that clunker, perhaps Zahn should make a connection and avoid roles with that name.

Biggs proved to be likeable and funny in American Pie, but since then he’s been saddled with his own string of clunkers, and he does nothing to shake that problem here. Black also has been good in films such as High Fidelity, but he just seemed stupid and obnoxious in Silverman.

Although I didn’t think Saving Silverman would be much of a movie, it failed to live up to even those extremely low expectations. It was a totally inane, humorless and crass film that provided no entertainment or pleasure. I could forgive it if we saw Amanda Peet naked, but since it couldn’t grant that minor treat, Silverman went down as a total bomb.

The DVD:

Saving Silverman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture generally looked fine, a few concerns made it seem less than stellar.

Sharpness generally appeared acceptably crisp and well-defined. Some wider shots seemed to be slightly soft and fuzzy, and that issue cropped up most frequently during interiors; those scenes occasionally were somewhat murky. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared to be clear and accurate. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no significant concerns, but some mild edge enhancement caused ringing at times. Print flaws were present but fairly modest. I noticed a couple of scratches, and some light specks and grit also appeared, but most of the film looked clear and reasonably fresh.

As a whole, colors seemed to be nicely bright and vivid. During a few scenes, however, the hues were somewhat thick and messy. For example, when we first meet Peet, her red blouse looked a bit runny, and during a later club scene, the tones were slightly heavy. Nonetheless, most of the colors appeared accurate and vibrant, and they presented few concerns. Black levels seemed to be deep and dense, but shadow detail was a little muddy. As I noted, interiors could come across as slightly murky, and during those segments, low-light situations were somewhat opaque. As a whole, Saving Silverman presented a fairly solid image, but these various issues caused me to lower my grade to a still-positive “B”.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack maintained a fairly modest affair, it seemed to be a positive mix. As is typical for comedies, the soundfield stayed pretty strongly with the forward channels. The front spectrum displayed a nicely broad and engaging presentation, as music showed fine stereo separation, and effects created a real and involving space. Sounds were placed accurately, and some modest panning moved well across the channels. Surround usage provided a generally solid sense of ambience. There was little distinct activity from the rears, but they added a good sense of reinforcement for both effects and music.

Audio quality sounded solid. Dialogue was warm and natural, and I detected no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects seemed to be clear and accurate, as they showed good range and realism; those elements also showed no signs of distortion. The music offered the strongest aspect of the mix. The score and the tunes came across as rich and bright, and they showed solid low-end. Bass response seemed fairly deep and tight, especially through the drums heard in the kickboxing scene. Ultimate, I thought Saving Silverman was a solid auditory experience that nicely complemented the action.

Note that although the DVD’s case states that a fullscreen version of Saving Silverman appears on this platter, that is definitely not accurate. Although there was plenty of room on the disc for one, no evidence of a fullscreen edition shows up on the DVD.

Although not a special edition, Saving Silverman provides a few extras. Most significant is a running, screen-specific audio commentary from director Dennis Dugan. Here’s the almost-perfect rule of audio commentaries: the crummier the movie, the more terrific its participants think it is. Although Dugan occasionally criticizes himself, mainly he tells us how great the film is and how wonderful everyone was.

Boy, is this guy full of himself! At the start of the track, Dugan tells us that this is “a funny movie”, and he often remarks, “That strikes me funny” or similar statements. As the track progresses, it becomes clear that it was recorded prior to the film’s release. I think these commentaries shouldn’t be created until after they hit screens; perhaps Dugan might have been a little less cocky about the mania SS would cause if he knew how poorly it would fare at the box office.

Despite - or perhaps because of - Dugan’s smugness, this commentary actually was somewhat entertaining. While he’s arrogant, at least Dugan exhibits a personality, so he maintains a reasonably engaging presentation. When he doesn’t tell us how great the movie is, Dugan provides some decent factoids about the production, and he also let us know some of the differences between the theatrical “PG-13” release and this “R”-rated edition. Ultimately, Dugan’s arrogant and self-congratulatory attitude could be annoying, but fans of the movie should enjoy the track.

In addition, we find a three-minute and 40-second Outtakes Reel. This piece connects a slew of little bits left out of the film, most of which show errors by the actors. It also includes some minor improv moments, which makes it more interesting than most of these programs. It was almost entertaining at times, which is more than I can say for the final film.

Lastly, the DVD includes Filmographies for director Dugan and actors Biggs, Black, Zahn and Peet plus a slew of Theatrical Trailers. In that area we get promos for SS itself plus Biggs’ Loser, Dugan’s Big Daddy, Zahn’s The Cable Guy, and Peet’s Whipped. Some brief Production Notes also appear in the DVD’s booklet.

Was Saving Silverman the worst film I’ve ever seen? No, but it was still a thoroughly rotten affair. The movie offered nothing to make it even remotely watchable; it thoroughly lacked any humor, charm or spark. The DVD provided fairly positive picture and sound plus a minor roster of extras. If you liked the film, you should be happy with the DVD, but if you haven’t seen it, my advice would be to check out something else instead; Saving Silverman was a dog.

Note that Saving Silverman can be purchased in either its theatrical “PG-13” cut or this “R”-rated version. My guess is that most people will choose the latter, but I wanted to point out the availability of the original.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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