Warner Bros. // 2006 // 116 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // December 18th, 2006
Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content, language, nudity and substance abuse.
Beerfest. Hmmm...Beerfest. Guess I can put away my Oscar nomination scorecard.
The gang from Broken Lizard sends up the world of super secret, international beer game competitions. You're familiar with those, naturally. Two-story beer funnels, half-gallon steins, and a Swedish team of statuesque blondes who take off their bikinis when they lose. Stout Germans with Mausers and submarines at the ready. Cheering crowds full of foamy suds and bloodlust.
What would the American team look like? Maybe it would be led by brothers Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd (Erik Stolhanske) Wolfhouse, heirs to a legacy of hard drinking and family secrets. The heart of the team might be a guy like Landfill (Kevin Heffernan), a human tank capable of downing any substance with impunity. To coach the strategic elements of professional drinking, who better than science geek Steve "Fink" Finklestein (Steve Lemme), frog fluffer extraordinaire? Finally, a ringer would come in handy when beer pong is on the line. Best have a man on the team like Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar), who honed his lightning fast reflexes and ball-handling dexterity as a male prostitute giving favors under a bridge. Can these unlikely heroes represent America in the world's oldest, most brutal beer game?
Though I've never seen a Broken Lizard production before, I had to take the plunge when they took on my favorite pastime: drinking beer. Given their reputation, I knew there was a good chance that Beerfest would be overwhelmingly crude and stupid. But hey, maybe there would be a gag or two to warm this beer lover's heart. Imagine my surprise to find a crude, stupid -- yet paradoxically intelligent and hilarious -- take on beer and underdogs. Oh, and European breasts.
Beerfest starts out measured and amiable, with steady doses of character study and crude humor. It is neither slow nor fast; it just fits, like a comfortable pair of jeans. With the exception of a few false starts and under-explained subplots, the entire film benefits from great pacing. Beerfest is not forced or overzealous, nor is it so surreal as to be unapproachable. In comparison to other gross-out comedies, this is a welcome change.
Beerfest is a send up of the sports drama. It's all there, from the initial humiliation, through long hours of training, to the rematch and eventual triumph in front of an initially hostile, cheering crowd. Every sports underdog cliché is mined. Of course, the sport in question is chugging beer, which adds another layer of comedy.
Everything you could hope for in a lowbrow comedy about international beer swilling is here. Every puerile wish is fulfilled. For example, when a lovely beer wench slips on a bratwurst during Oktoberfest, what better outcome than to have her blouse ripped off? And if she clutched wildly for support and ripped off two more blouses, better still. And if those poor victims took out two more blouses in the process? Icing. There is a lot of icing in Beerfest.
Yet the movie seems smarter than it should. For example, Grandpa and Gam Gam are played by award winners Donald Sutherland (Citizen X) and Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show). If you want a grim, forbidding German baddie, who better than Jürgen Prochnow of Das Boot fame? Though they are prone to underacting, the Broken Lizard guys hold their own. Some jokes are surprisingly subtle, such as Fink studying "beer anatomy." It sounds stupid, sure, but in context it'll make beer shoot out your nose.
Smarts aside, Beerfest is precisely what you'd expect: a movie you'd watch in the company of your most juvenile beer-drinking buddy. If you want beer, breasts, bonding, and burps, Beerfest is your best bet.
Warner Brothers has presented a fine package for this Unrated DVD. I didn't see the R-rated cut, so I'm not sure which scenes are new; I presume the scene where a naked Barry Badrinath wakes up next to a throat-slit deer in a snowy field and mutters "not again" didn't make the original cut. But I can tell you that the red blood and the delicate flesh tones of Jay Chandrasekhar's naked ass are properly rendered. Beerfest is periodically soft and the contrast seems odd in a couple of the dark scenes, both of which are probably inherent in the source material. Otherwise, Beerfest has the crispness and clarity of a 2006 DVD produced by Warner Brothers. The tacky faux-German accents and oompah bands come across clearly, though the track lacks depth. The soundtrack features such notables as Poison, Willie Nelson, and Kool and the Gang, which adds some star appeal.
The deleted scenes are more interesting than most featurettes on their ilk. The comments actually make sense beyond "well, we trimmed this for time reasons." Director Jay Chandrasekhar is most lucid, discussing the lack of context for some of the gags that he really wanted to keep in. The dual commentaries really seem like one big commentary. The Broken Lizard boys are obviously in synch with each other because they often bring up the same stories. I switched back and forth between the two tracks and the transition was often seamless.
"Party Foul" is a treat if you enjoyed the film. The guys break character and talk about party fouls they have committed or witnessed in the past. It feels like swapping war stories with your own drinking buddies. "Beer 101" is an overproduced missed opportunity. Though it relays some interesting beer trivia, it isn't as funny as it thinks it is. Fortunately, seeing a real live "Frog Fluffer" at work makes up for it.
If you don't love beer and all of its lore -- from party fouls to that moment when you taste the perfect beer and the heavens open up to shine on your face -- Beerfest will be a chore to sit through. If you don't see a scene with buxom, braless beer wenches and secretly wish for their tops to disappear, this one is not for you. But if you have nursed your immaturity all these years and have a fond spot for large burps and crude gags, pull up a stool.
Innocent as a white, fluffy lamb. Again.
Review content copyright © 2006 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary by Jay Chandrasekhar and Steve Lemme
* Commentary by Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske
* Deleted scenes with optional commentaries
* "Party Foul" featurette
* "Beer 101" featurette
* "Frog Fluffer" featurette
* Official site