The good news is Beerfest is a little better than comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers (2001), considerably better than their Club Dread (2004), and about a million times better than their work-for-hire participation on The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). The bad news is it’s still pretty dreadful.
There are a handful of moments so sublimely ridiculous that they’re actually funny. And the in-joke Das Boot (1981) casting of Jurgen Prochnow as the head bad guy verges on inspired (but do those involved really think their target audience will get a gag based on a 25-year-old German movie?). However, these diversions don’t make up for stretching a wafer-thin story focused on the antics of a bunch of over-the-hill frat boys over 111 abusively overlong minutes. (When the film superimposes the words “8 months to go,” you feel that this could be in real time.)
The movie is a mess. I’m told that it’s deliberately a mess, and I can respect that. Deliberately messy movies like Casino Royale (1967) and The Magic Christian (1969) rank pretty high on my personal favorites list, but there the messiness was part of the point — as a subversive reaction to so-called “well-crafted” movies of the time. Beerfest is in reaction to nothing and it’s certainly not subversive. It’s too enthralled by the self-proclaimed comedic “genius” of Broken Lizard to worry about anything else.
Broken Lizard originated as a comedy team at Colgate University, breaking into mainstream consciousness with Super Troopers — a spotty little movie dedicated to the concept that any and everything these guys do is automatically a “laff riot.” It became a modest cult hit (meaning not very many people liked it, but the ones who did, liked it to the point of obsession), and is still a favorite with people who toss the word “awesome” around with terrifying frequency on Internet message boards.
Unfortunately, their follow-up, Club Dread, didn’t achieve the same level on the awesome-o-meter. In fact, it tanked at the box office. Perhaps as penance, they made — but didn’t write — The Dukes of Hazzard where they took a backseat to a presold product and Johnny Knoxville. (Taking the backseat for the latter must be the pinnacle of personal embarrassment.)
That brings us back to Beerfest, which suffers from the “anything and everything these guys do is automatically a ‘laff riot'” syndrome in spades. There’s almost no plot. Charged with taking their grandfather’s ashes (the pre-ash grandfather being played by a wisely unbilled Donald Sutherland) to the family resting place in Munich, Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske) find themselves at a super-secret and illegal beer drinking contest called Beerfest. Easily beaten and disgraced, they return to America to put together and train a team to win next year. That’s the plot. Oh, it’s fleshed out with complications — a few of which are funny — but when you just throw gags against the wall for nearly two hours something is bound to stick.
It’s a nonstop series of drinking gags, drunk gags and drunken sex gags (go to bed with a hot babe and wake up with M’onique). Toss in some not very funny sex stuff involving Cloris Leachman (who has become the go-to gal for elderly gross jokes), “clever” names (if a restaurant called “Schnitzengiggles” strikes you as wildly funny, these may amuse you) and a lot of arbitrary bare breasts (this has maximum appeal for teens who have never seen any that weren’t rendered in two-dimensional form, I suppose) — et voila you have Beerfest. Shorn of a half hour, it might have been a middling, outrageously crude comedy, but as it stands, it’s just too much of a not-all-that-good thing — kind of like drinking a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content, language, nudity and substance abuse.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke