Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:30 - Released 2/9/01

I don't think I've ever seen a stupider movie with a cooler ending than Saving Silverman. From Dennis Dugan, the director of such dubious titles as Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy, comes another disposable teen-aimed comedy which centers around three friends who are driven apart when one of them, played by Jason Biggs of American Pie fame, falls in love. Most of this film, written by freshman team Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul, is filled with slapstick humor and abject silliness, but it does contain some guilty pleasures, like the wacky characterizations of Jack Black (High Fidelity) and Steve Zahn, and the completely out of context appearance of '70s pop icon Neil Diamond near the end, playing himself. Why a respected singer/songwriter like Diamond would choose to appear in this film, most of whose target audience has probably never heard of him, is beyond me. (His real fans, now in their 30s and 40s at least, would surely avoid this type of movie like the plague.) However, his part elevates the film considerably, providing a smash ending that may attract a new following of teenyboppers to his fan base.

Darren Silverman (Biggs) and his pals J.D. (Black) and Wayne (Zahn) have been best friends forever. Their history is outlined in an opening montage and voiceover by Zahn, encapsulating their childhood, their high school days, and their uniform obsession with pop singer Diamond. At present they all struggle with menial jobs but work together as a Neil Diamond cover band, cranking out rockin' covers of songs like "Cherry, Baby" on street corners while wearing sequined shirts and shaggy brown wigs (all three of them). Although their only actual contact with Diamond has resulted in a restraining order, they're still die-hard fans, and they spend all their time together in their gross, beer-soaked apartment. But then Darren, lovesick after his "one and only someone" moved away, begins a relationship with bossy, bitchy psychologist Judith (Amanda Peet), who is attracted to him mainly for his slave-like qualities.

After meeting J.D. and Wayne, and being justifiably disgusted with their piggish behavior, Judith informs Darren that either he quit the band and stop hanging around with them or there will be no sex. After offering some feeble resistance, he agrees, and J.D. and Wayne spend the rest of the movie trying to get him back. Their plan is helped by the re-appearance of high school friend Sandy (Amanda Detmer), Darren's "one and only someone" from high school, but her recent decision to become a nun tends to make matters difficult. J.D. and Wayne decide they must kidnap Judith, convince Sandy to renounce the convent, and re-introduce the two lovebirds. Stupidity ensues.

Like many teen romances, this film is mostly insubstantial, but it has some redeeming qualities. The guys are funny, the girls look fabulous, and Diamond's good-natured self parody is amusing and perpelexing at the same time. Also present is former Marine R. Lee Ermey (who achieved some fame playing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket) as the boys' former football coach and co-conspirator. While the dumbness level is constant throughout, the feel-good ending is resoundingly effective, and one can't blame Diamond for attempting to court a new, younger audience. Besides, his songs still rock. **

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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