Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Steve Zahn

There's no saving "Saving Silverman." As if it were necessary to add to the already crowded, noisy and gross room, along comes this misbegotten, unimaginative buddy pic. Young male moviegoers may hang out with this crass counterprogrammer to the current wave of female-oriented pics, but may wonder if it was worth it the next morning.

There’s no saving “Saving Silverman.” As if it were necessary to add to the already crowded, noisy and gross room occupied by the likes of Adam Sandler and Tom Green, along comes this misbegotten, unimaginative buddy pic, which says more about its makers than they might care to know. Though the main comic seed of Hank Nelken and Greg DePaul’s script is straight out of classic screwball — pals, concerned that their best friend is hitching up with Ms. Wrong, do everything in their power to prevent wedlock — the seed eventually is covered in filmic manure. Young male moviegoers, inspired by the movie’s poster of Jason Biggs’ character pressed under a woman’s giant thumb, may hang out with this crass counterprogrammer to the current wave of female-oriented pics, but may wonder if it was worth it the next morning.

Pic strives to depict a world where nice guys are stupid and wimpy, and where at least some women live only to secure a mate and control him. Wayne (Steve Zahn), speaking directly to the audience, explains that while he grew up feeling loyal to his pals Darren (Biggs) and J.D. (Jack Black), Darren was a sucker for cute girls, while J.D. was simply lactose-intolerant.

After enduring high school, and football under a ruthless coach (R. Lee Ermey, spoofing his “Full Metal Jacket” drill instructor), they all grow up to be losers in witless jobs. On weekends, they play tunes by their all-time hero, Neil Diamond, in public squares.

Ever-naive Darren yearns for a girlfriend and seems to find one in Judith (Amanda Peet). But what proves disastrous in both the script and the direction by Dennis Dugan (“Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy”) is how we’re expected to accept Darren’s utter blindness to the obvious fact that Judith, a shrink, is a cold-hearted conniver, one who calmly announces, “Darren is my puppet, and I’m his puppet master.”

While Wayne and J.D. are understandably frustrated by their friend’s peril, the real pain is the audience’s, since Darren appears to be so idiotic that he’s hardly worth saving. It says everything about the movie, surely rated on the extreme outer edge of the PG-13 tag, that Darren is forced by Judith to get butt cheek implants, and that we’re forced to view it.

The buddies panic when Darren announces his engagement but find hope with the sudden re-appearance of Sandy (Amanda Detmer), Darren’s old high school flame. It doesn’t matter to these dim bulbs that Sandy is about to become a nun; they’re going to get the past lovers together again, even if it means kidnapping Judith.

Up to this point, the movie’s moronic sensibility is pure frat boy stuff. Soon, it gets downright ugly, stuffed with awkward heaps of physical hijinks. Even the potential for a dash of charm in the encounters between Darren and Sandy is squashed with dumb stunts that seem like pallid knockoffs of “There’s Something About Mary.”

Thesps are all typecast: Zahn is the well-meaning doofus, Biggs the fresh-scrubbed innocent and Black the wild man with no inner censor on his mouth. All three perfs tip over into self-parody, which is fine if you’re Neil Diamond (who shows up at the end to truly save Silverman), but not so great when you’re still in your 20s and 30s.

Nearly the same can be said of Peet, who, with this pic and “Whipped,” is losing the goodwill she earned with her funny turn in “The Whole Nine Yards.” Detmer literally is reduced to dressing up as a nun or a whore, and Ermey’s role requires him to poop in public and kiss Black on the mouth.

Production values are — if the word applies here at all — decent, effectively disguising Vancouver, B.C., locales as American.

Saving Silverman

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures presentation in association with NPV Entertainment of an Original Film production. Produced by Neal H. Moritz. Executive producers, Bruce Berman, Bernie Goldmann, Brad Luff, Peter Ziegler. Co-producer, Warren Carr. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Screenplay, Hank Nelken, Greg DePaul.

Crew

Camera (CFI color, Deluxe prints), Arthur Albert; editor, Debra Neil-Fisher; music, Mike Simpson; music supervisor, Michelle Silverman, Mary Ramos; production designer, Michael Bolton; art director, James Steuart; set designer, Bill McMahon; set decorator, Louise Roper; costume designer, Melissa Toth; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Martin Fossum; supervising sound editor, George Anderson; associate producer, Bill Whitten; assistant director, Daniel Silverberg; second unit camera, Jeff Upton; casting, Mary Vernieu, Anne McCarthy, Felicia Fasano. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Calif., Jan. 31, 2001. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Darren Silverman - Jason Biggs Wayne - Steve Zahn J.D. - Jack Black Judith - Amanda Peet Coach - R. Lee Ermey Sandy - Amanda Detmer Himself - Neil Diamond Mother Superior - Lillian Carlson Bar Dude - Kyle Gass
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more