February 16, 2001

Dead On Arrival

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You have to admit that Jason Biggs had a bright future ahead of him. The success of American Pie, largely courtesy of his hilarious sexcapades, provided him with quite a springboard into Hollywood.

Unfortunately, his luck stopped there. Or maybe he simply lost his ability to appropriately select films in which to appear. Did he sign on to Boys and Girls, Loser, and his current flick, Saving Silverman, in one drunken orgy of misjudgment? Because the only thing worth mentioning about these films is that each is exponentially worse than its predecessor.

In Saving Silverman, Biggs portrays Darren, the least inane of three lifelong pals. One night he meets and quickly falls for a domineering psychotherapist, Judith, played by Amanda Peet (TV’s Jack and Jill), and in mere movie moments, they are engaged and his friends, Wayne and J.D., are plotting to break them up.

Biggs depicts a hopeless romantic, which is an obvious typecast but bearable nonetheless. The bulk of the screentime, though, is allotted to Steve Zahn (Out of Sight) and Jack Black (High Fidelity), two proven actors who must have been similarly intoxicated when signing their contracts.

Apparently something went terribly awry between Silverman‘s conception and its final editing.

That is, 20 minutes into the film, Wayne (Zahn) and J.D. (Black) have accidentally become the villains, while Judith has transformed into the unlikely victim. I say “accidentally,” because I am almost certain that director Dennis Duggan did not intend on this personae reversal. By all accounts, Wayne and J.D. were supposed to be the heroes of the movie, rescuing unknowing Darren from the mean-spirited Judith.

We were thus supposed to empathize with Wayne and J.D.’s plight to save their dear friend from marrying a girl who wasn’t right for him. Unfortunately, though, the two pals are involved in so many disgustingly cruel stunts (including a kidnapping, grave robbery, and a BB gun shooting) that I was unable to root for them. It just didn’t seem right. And once I started cheering for the “wrong” character, all hope was lost.

I realize, however, that movies like this aren’t designed to be closely analyzed for complete sensibility and believability, but the clumsiness and outrageousness of the plot are almost too much to bear. So are the distasteful jokes about Asians and gays.

It really is a shame, though. The cast and crew alike had proven track records. The enthusiasm was there too. But, in the end, nothing could hide Silverman from a Hollywood truth: some ideas are best left as just that — ideas.

Archived article by David Kaplan