The latest from the Broken Lizard Troupe is an obvious premise; so obvious that it has been done before. Anyone who has ever worked as a waiter knows that it is not only demeaning and soul-sucking, it also comes with some strange occurrences. This was not the context as much in Waiting, which was more about the seedier side of a franchise restaurant. There was more focus on what happens behind the customer’s backs, while The Slammin’ Salmon offers absurdities in full view. Subtlety can often be lost with this group, but what is most disappointing about the latest from Broken Lizard is how unoriginal many of the gags seem.
The title is taken from the name of a seafood restaurant opened by former Heavyweight Champion Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan). In a choppy and unnecessary opening we see waiter Rich (Kevin Heffernan) attempting to quit, but the intimidation brought on by the tough restaurant owner is too much for the cowardly employee. Years later Rich is the manager on the evening that Cleon announces that the restaurant must make $20,000 by the end of the night in order to pay off a gambling debt to the yakuza.
In order to offer incentive to his wait staff, Rich offers a number of prizes to the winner of a contest for the top-selling server. An ugly battle to win the prize is made worse by a series of disasters. Rich accidentally swallows an engagement ring, an unstable server named Nuts (co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar) forgets to take his medication, and ballerina server Mia (April Bowlby) is robbed of her sex appeal when a number of kitchen accidents leave her disfigured.
There are some humorous moments in the film, but mostly this just seems to be too easy a concept for such lazy gags. The characters make the film mildly entertaining, but the script has them do things that seem unbelievable and out of character. A forced love story just adds layers of expected plot development. If this film didn’t try to conform so unnecessarily to a traditional narrative, it may have been more enjoyable and less predicable. Heffernan directs for the first time, but the focus obviously remains on the script which he co-wrote.