& & by Ed Symkus & &

Is it okay to laugh at films that many would consider to be in bad taste? Does the term politically correct really have any meaning anymore in these days of right wing rule that most of us happy, free-wheeling citizens are just going to ignore until it goes away? Well, Saving Silverman is nothing new. Both bad taste and political incorrectness have been a part of the popular movie landscape since the Zucker brothers paved the way with Airplane! Or was it since Mel Brooks gave the word "outrageous" new meaning in Blazing Saddles? Wait, was there a mention of There's Something About Mary? Whatever, when American Pie came rolling along and left its indelible stamp on the movie-going psyche in a scene with Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy, and that infamous pie, some ground was broken.

There's a great visual food and sex joke in Saving Silverman as well as Jason Biggs in the title role, but that's about as close as it gets to the shenanigans of American Pie. There is, however, a shared raucousness and a direct aim at the same younger-skewing audience. But I think the response to this film is going to be surprising, especially to the folks in charge of marketing it. This is one silly, stupid, vulgar, very funny film that's most likely going to attract -- by word of mouth -- both young and older viewers who just need a good laugh.

The basic story is one of friendship. Three losers -- Biggs, Jack Black (High Fidelity) and Steve Zahn (Happy, Texas) are pals who pretty much have only each other and a shared enthusiasm for the music of Neil Diamond. Any down time is spent listening to Neil or playing in a Neil cover band, complete with glitzy, spangly shirts and wigs, when necessary.

But Darren Silverman (Biggs), sensitivity incarnate, is feeling lonely and a little sorry for himself. He misses his long-ago girlfriend Sandy, and falls for a prank his buddies play on him in a bar when they insist a beautiful woman named Judith (Amanda Peet) who's drinking alone is interested in him. Turns out, gosh darn it, she is.

And before his pals Wayne (Zahn) and J.D. (Black) can say 'Oops,' Judith (don't ever call her Judy) -- gorgeous and smart and successful and very much in charge of any situation she's ever been in -- has whisked Darren away from them and made him hers. But Wayne and J.D. know she's not for him and hatch a series of plans that collectively lead to the film's title.

Most of the practically unrelenting humor comes from the sheer bumbling idiocy of the two guys. That and the fact that no matter what they do, no matter how many plans they set into motion, something is going to go wrong, followed by everything else around them going wrong, too.

One of their best ideas, after bumping into that old girlfriend, Sandy (Amanda Detmer), for whom Darren still pines, is to somehow push Judith aside and get Darren and Sandy alone, in the hopes that perhaps sparks will fly. But their method is to kidnap Judith and hide her in their basement until it's too late for anyone to do anything about it. Darren and Sandy will be one, and he'll once again be free of nasty Judith's ironclad grip -- and he'll be their pal again.

Things go awry. Covered-up identities are rapidly uncovered. Care for their crafty -- and martial arts-trained -- prisoner is a tad more difficult than they ever dreamed. When Darren gets together with Sandy, he can't stop calling her Judith.

A dumb movie with tired old jokes and audaciously ridiculous situations? You bet. But the innocence of Biggs, the ferocity of Peet, the girl-next-door attitude of Detmer and the brilliant comic teaming and timing of Zahn and Black all mix together to make it seem all brand new and exactly as plans-gone-wrong movies should be. When bushy-eyebrowed R. Lee Ermey, as the guys' old football coach, enters into the fray, what we have is a gifted actor who's done a couple of comic turns before, but is now unleashed in an inspired performance.

True, this is a sort of one-joke movie. But it's a good joke. And the energy level just never lets up. Neither does the spirit of any of the actors. A series of insane flashbacks that quickly explain some of the characters' backgrounds and personal baggage make for major comic highlights, as does the witty inclusion of a bunch of Neil Diamond lyrics in some of the spoken dialogue. The ending comes spinning at breakneck speed out of the blue and is as ridiculous as anything that's come before it. But hey, it's funny and it works.

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