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LOSING BATTLE

SAVING SILVERMAN **

STARRING: Jack Black, Steve Zahn, Amanda Peet, Jason Biggs

DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and thematic material

THE LOWDOWN: Two young men take drastic action to save their friend from his horrible fiancee

In "Saving Silverman," Darren Silverman's moronic friends draw up a "fun graph" to show in mathematical terms the plunge in their fun level since Silverman quit their Neil Diamond cover band and got engaged to a nasty psychologist.

Let's say we plot a similar "fun graph," ranking "Silverman" against movies that generate laughs somewhere in the body other than the brain. The Farrelly brothers' "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary" would be at the top. "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" would be a tad lower, and down around the middle somewhere, would be "Saving Silverman" - about on a par with "Happy Gilmore" (also directed by Dennis Dugan), but above "The Waterboy," and way above "Beverly Hills Ninja" (Dugan, too).

"Silverman" boasts some of the funniest actors around in Steve Zahn and Jack Black (the obnoxious record store clerk in "High Fidelity"), several idiotic scenes funny enough to make you choke on your popcorn, and a story so anemic the movie runs out of steam with a half-hour left to go. (First-time screenwriters Greg DePaul and Hank Nelken say they were inspired to write this after attending a friend's engagement party and realizing their buddy was about to marry the wrong woman.)

The talented Amanda Peet proves she's game for anything, playing man-eater psychologist Judith Snodgrass-Fessbeggler in an impressive parade of bosom-baring outfits. Jason Biggs (the pie guy from "American Pie") is suitably pathetic as her hapless suitor, and Zahn and Black are hilarious as Wayne and J.D., the friends who decide to rescue him from her clutches.

The fun level peaks in the beginning, with scenes of Biggs, Zahn and Black at work, then performing in their band, "Diamonds in the Rough." (Both Zahn and Black are musicians, and Black's band Tenacious D has an album in the works.)

There are still some occasional upward spikes in the fun level as the movie takes a general plunge downward: Neil Diamond memorabilia, circus freaks, a chicken mascot suit, athletic nuns, a deranged football coach, a salsa explosion, a wildlife invasion, graphic cosmetic surgery, jumper cables, a hair gel scene (and yes, it IS hair gel). And Neil Diamond makes his first movie appearance in 20 years.

Even in a moronic comedy, a character can be endearing. (After all, Happy Gilmore loved his grandma.) That's not the case here. All is caricature, right up to the so-not-funny ending.

You still may laugh your fool head off, but you'll hate yourself in the morning.

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