Entertainment Weekly

Subscribe

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

Why ''Saving Silverman'''s dumb humor is offensive

The new Amanda Peet flick is no ”There’s Something About Mary,” says Lisa Schwarzbaum

Posted on

Jack Black, Steve Zahn, ...
Saving Silverman: Columbia Pictures

Why ”Saving Silverman”’s dumb humor is offensive

In case I haven’t made my distaste clear enough with the grade I’m giving my review of ”Saving Silverman” (opening Friday) — that would be an F! — let me be clear: This comedy about a couple of doofuses intent on rescuing their doofus buddy from marrying a hateful woman stinks.

But before thoughtful, articulate readers who beg to differ scribble messages below informing me that I stink, too, let me explain more about what I think is fair, and what’s foul in ”Saving Silverman” and why.

See, I went into ”Silverman” with the right attitude. ”Check your brains under the seat,” the eager audience at a Saturday night preview screening was advised, and I did. I’m a big fan of Jack Black and Steve Zahn, who play the dudes staging a marriage intervention. I’m tolerant about Jason Biggs, who plays the submissive groom to be, and Amanda Peet, who, as she did in ”Whipped,” plays the dominating whipper. Show me scenes of a guy putting pantyhose on his head, show me grownups playing with their food, show me stupid animal tricks, and I’m happy. (This film contains all three.)

But there’s a line — not even a fine line, more of a fat, neon colored Magic Marker line — between unfettered, subversive humor that farts in the face of hypocritical propriety, and mean, coarse, poorly aimed stuff. The former makes you feel liberated and large as you laugh; the latter makes you feel dirty and small.

Gross out comedy, after all, is an art; it only APPEARS scattershot. When you’re not laughing your tush off during loony movies of the Farrelly brothers like ”Dumb & Dumber” and ”There’s Something About Mary,” pay attention to their jokes and, even more importantly, their targets, and you realize that even their recurring guy in the wheelchair comedy leaves the actual guy in the wheelchair with his dignity.

In ”Silverman,” by contrast, the filmmakers aren’t adept enough to distinguish playful pokes from vicious knifewounds, and the recipients of their pranks are actually, horribly demeaned. There’s a difference. I can’t define it, but we all know it’s there, or should be. (By the way, don’t fire back with the old ”Relax, girlfriend, it’s a boy thing” excuse, because it’s not, and you know it.)

There’s a welcome place at the movies for good, dumb fun, but ”Saving Silverman” is bad, dumb, and not as funny as it thinks it is, and it’s important to make a distinction. Which is why ”Saving Silverman” got an F.

Now, rather than wasting time on the message board telling me I stink, how about discussing what’s the worst thing you’ve seen lately, and why.