Surely, Sam Rockwell, Steven Zahn and Paul Giamatti are recognizable figures in the film industry. But for the most part those actors don’t comprise heavy hitters in a feature work. Each had received a fair amount of acclaim and continued to land major roles over time, garnering a few award statues. Mentioning those first to names in casual conversation, though, isn’t going to result in too much else other than confused looks.
Safe Men, released in 1998, didn’t and won’t in the future do much to rectify that despite a spate of good performances. The film marked the first time writer and director John Hamburg (Meet the Parents, Zoolander) earned the right to helm a film in totality. The result isn’t inauspicious, just not something that’s going to be revisited again and again in years to come.
Zahn and Rockwell play a pair of would be singing sensations, although, their best gigs seem to be in ethnically inclined old folks homes and community centers. Even with their floundering careers, which necessitates changing out of their costumes (yeah, the pair wears matching outfits), the performers don’t seem prepared to quit – perhaps soon, though.
Where the film begins to fall apart – and it’s pretty early on – is when the singers head to a bar to kill some time after a performance and are mistaken by the Giamatti character, Veal Chop, for a pair of safe crackers. Easy mistake, right? Supposedly.
With the real safe men skipping on a drink at the bar, Veal Chop enlists Zahn and Rockwell’s to go on a spree. Of course, their ineptitude doesn’t hinder the pair’s ability to sneak into just about any house or business without too much trouble. Since the proper safe crackers were introduced, though, it makes sense that a meager parallel story emerges in which Rockwell and one of the real bad guys vie for the affections of some women.
Since viewers know who the star, relatively, is of the film, its outcome should be pretty easy to guess. If you’ve noticed, though, there’s nothing approaching a climax here, which works to ostensibly render Safe Men an exercise Hamburg needed to work out in order to come up with more Hollywood ready narratives. It worked, so no complaining.