The summer is looking up again with this, the second funniest film of the summer (after “Something About Mary”). Sam and Eddie (Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn, the sane man’s Crispen Glover) are two colossally bad singer-performers in Providence, Rhode Island. After a painful senior citizens’ gig, they go to their neighborhood bar for sloe gin fizzes and foosball. They are promptly mistaken for a pair of ace safe-crackers (Josh Pais and Mark Ruffalo) who are running through town by spastic Jewish gangster, Veal Chop (Paul Giamatti, 1998 character actor of the year). Sam and Eddie are promptly tricked into a scheme where they owe their lives to kingpin Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michæl Lerner). They must crack three safes of Bernie’s choosing by the end of the week or die. The first belongs to the other Jewish crime kingpin, “Good Stuff” Leo (Harvey Firestein). Hijinx ensue.
This, the debut feature from writer/director John Hamburg, is an amazing acheivement. Now working on a movie at Disney, he’s ready to launch into the big time like the Farrelly Brothers. Michæl Lerner and Harvey Firestein are the two most touchy-feelie gangsters of all time. This movie involves no shooting, but lots of hugging. The only person Firestein ever killed was when he accidentally sold her a pair of exploding pants. Sam Rockwell does a fine, delusional, Jeremy Davies imitation. The big kick is Paul Giamatti (Pig Vomit in “Private Parts”; “Saving Private Ryan”; “The Negotiator”) as the starved for love, Veal Chop. He could be reciting his lines in Latin and keep you laughing. In this film, there is no such thing as overacting. There’s a “Say Anything” parody that left us rolling for minutes. Between the Farrelly brothers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and this crew, there’s hope for the American comedy yet.