The latest bawdy comedy from the Broken Lizard gang, "Beerfest" is, like 2002's "Super Troopers
" and 2004's "Club Dread
" before it, a hit-or-miss affair. Even so, the film is never less than inspired, and when the jokes fly, the results are hilarious. Setting out to make what may become the ultimate movie to drink to at parties and on college campuses the world over, writer-director Jay Chandrasekhar and co-writers Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme proudly wear their R-rating as a badge of honor. Unafraid to throw at audiences a brand of extremely twisted humor, sexual and otherwise, at the risk of turning off the easily offended, the Broken Lizards have made, first and foremost, a love letter to mass alcohol consumption.
The plot is just an excuse to set up a series of raunchy, fratboy-style set-pieces. When their beloved grandfather (Donald Sutherland), a diehard beer-drinker, passes away, brothers Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske) make the trek to Munich to attend Oktoberfest in his memory. While there, they discover an annual underground drinking competition between countries called Beerfest. When the snotty German team, coached by Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen (Jurgen Prochow), accuses their sweet Great Gam-Gam (Cloris Leachman) of being a whore and their grandfather of being a thief who stole their sacred beer recipe years earlier, Jan and Todd make it their mission to clear their family's name and win the contest. Returning to America, the brothers round up some teammatesbiologist and frog masturbator Steve "Fink" Finklestein (Steve Lemme), eating competition winner Landfill (Kevin Heffernan), and male prostitute Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar)and set off on a yearlong alcohol binge in hopes of learning how to drink "like Germans."
There isn't an ounce of social commentary in "Beerfest," but there is more beer-drinking and bouncing breasts than anyone could possibly dream of. In a time when the stinky "Accepted
" was released just last week, marketed as a raucous college comedy but watered-down with a hypocritical PG-13 rating, this film couldn't come at a better time. Embracing an absurdist tone so screwy and off-the-wall that its bad taste starts to become charming, director Jay Chandrasekhar has made well on his word to deliver exactly what "Beerfest" has been advertised as. If the sight of a frog reaching orgasm by the hands of a biologist doesn't offend you within its context, and the sight of a male hooker waking up after a drunken stupor next to a massacred deer in the woods doesn't have you running for the hills, and the sight of Cloris Leachman stroking a sausage and throwing out one double-entendre after the next sounds funny, then "Beerfest" may be right up your alley. And, if you happen to be a fan of beer or drinking in general, then the picture should become a party staple.
The Broken Lizard team, all of which collaborate on projects together and star in them, have become a cult sensation because of the wild and authentic camaraderie they are able to pull off onscreen. They have yet to make a truly great filmtheir brand of comedy, while the type that actually grows fonder in the viewer's memory after the fact, is a little spotty and doesn't always hit the bull's-eye. Nevertheless, their go-for-broke, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach guarantees that when one slapstick bit fails, an uproariously successful one is only moments away.
A scene that shows quite realistically how inebriation can make a person believe they are more coherent and sexually appealing than they actually are is one of the highlights, and carries a showstopping payoff involving the spitfire comic talents of Mo'Nique (2006's "Phat Girlz
"). Every scene with Cloris Leachman (2004's "Spanglish
") is very funny, too, putting a saucy, explicit spin on the role of Jan and Todd's loving Great Gam-Gam. Slyer, subtler gags additionally get plenty of mileage, as when the German team secretly travels to America by submarine to spy on their adversaries.
In the lead roles of Jan and Todd Wolfhouse, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske are the weak links in the cast, but this comes from the requirement that they play the straight men to the crazy nuts surrounding them. Much more fun are the remaining three Broken Lizards. As Landfill and, later, a surprise dual character, Kevin Heffernan is a delightful big lug with a hot temper and a heart of gold. Steve Lemme, as Fink, is a scream as an unorthodox biologist who thinks nothing of his "harmless" bestiality. Last but not least, Jay Chandrasekhar is quirkily lovable and uninhibited as Barry, the professional man-whore of the team who has a fear of ping-pong paddles for very understandable reasons.
"Beerfest" is juvenile, scattershot, eager-to-please, and laugh-out-loud funny in no particular order. At 110 minutes, director Chandrasekhar probably could have been more judicial with his editing; the pace is fast, but the climactic Beerfest battle goes on a little long. Drinking beer with buddies might never get old, but watching other people in a movie do it eventually wears out its welcome. Fortunately, the film never loses its edge or its irresistible enthusiasm in satisfying its target audience. With its pros and cons weighed, "Beerfest" is an inconsequentially silly good time that should endure with repeat viewings as a modern-day cult favorite.