Guilty pleasure or not, Judge Ryan Keefer says to take a shot when you feel yourself perversely enjoying this Broken Lizard film.
Our review of Beerfest: Completely Totally Unrated, published December 18th, 2006, is also available.
Yeah, you Americans, why don't you go back to strip malls und drink your Zimas and Smirnoff Ices!
Among the many classic films Warner Bros. has released through the years have been the Tim Burton Batman films, Citizen Kane, and The Exorcist. Beerfest is not a Warner classic, however it has been released on high definition disc before these other films. So is it worthy to spring some more money to get a prettier beer pong picture for your buck?
Facts of the Case
Super Troopers alumni Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske play Jan and Todd Wolfhouse, brothers who are assigned the task of taking their grandfather's ashes to Germany to be placed among friends. However, their late grandfather, Johann (Donald Sutherland, JFK), has a bad reputation in the motherland. He stole the German's famous beer recipe and left his brother Wolfgang (Jürgen Prochnow, Das Boot) back in the land of the Rhine, while their mother (Cloris Leachman, Blazing Saddles) took him to America. Jan and Todd discover this secret after they encounter a Fight Club-like speakeasy dedicated to the pursuits of barley, ale, and hops; a place called Beerfest, where a frat boy could play every drinking game there was and be completely happy. After they're humiliated by the host Germans, one of whom is Saturday Night Live's Will Forte, the boys construct a team to come back and take the Germans in the following year. So for the next 90 minutes or so, Jan and Todd pull together the team, including Landfill, Fink, and Barry, played by Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme and Jay Chandrasekhar respectively, with Chandrasekhar directing the film.
A friend of mine recommended that I watch Beerfest while drinking, or at the very least with a bit of a buzz on, to really appreciate it. But, since he made the recommendation to me while we were both drinking, and we didn't wind up watching it, what does that say about Beerfest? All I can tell you is this is another release by the Broken Lizard Comedy Troupe, home of Super Troopers, Club Dread, and other film works. Not having seen any of the other Broken Lizard films, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Beerfest is a more than fair representation of their type of comedy.
This unrated version of Beerfest is five minutes longer than the theatrical version, and I'll presume that the theatrical runtime of 110 minutes is a mite too long. I don't know what was added. But after seeing the film and its longish joke about manually stimulating frogs, first I was thinking that they took a page out of the Savage Steve Holland playbook, then I realized it just wasn't that funny because it kept going on and on and on. However, that's not to say the film is a complete waste of time, because there are some genuine moments where I was laughing. It took me back to college and the days of beer pong, quarters, and the time tested game of "Asshole." But just like college, most of us have probably outgrown much of what people in their early twenties used to do. Or perhaps I'm way way older than I'm giving myself credit for. Even after some of the laughs, you get exaggerated German accents, like everyone was doing a Schwarzenegger impression, and the Prochnow nods to his most famous film were funny if they weren't brought up in each act once or twice. You get montages, training feats of strength and alcoholic prowess, some frivolous nudity, and very little else.
The film itself is presented in a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer that looks OK. It's not necessarily a reference piece, but the image looks a little too flat for me. The Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround track, however, was a bigger surprise than I was expecting. Clear dialogue, low end fidelity for explosions, burping and farting (the latter two are probably redundant, depending on if you live with a Dad who likes chili), and more surround effects that I was expecting. Color me amber for…surprised? The extras are holdovers from the standard-definition release, with two commentary tracks. The first is from Chandrasekhar and Lemme, the second is with the other "Lizards." Why this wouldn't be a consolidated track with everyone is beyond me, but I suppose they go through the usual stories about their times getting boozed up on set and whatnot. Yawn. Following that is close to a half hour of deleted scenes with optional commentary, begging the question of how a film like this would have worked if it were two hours and twenty-three minutes. There are a couple more looks at the production of the film along with a trailer, but by this point you're already crashing on your dad's sofa in the basement because you can't drive, right?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Like I said before, there were some laughs, and Chandrasekhar's night of love with Mo'nique after putting on a large pair of beer goggles is funny in parts too. But you could also make the case that he's trying to make his friends look bad, because he got the darkest (and funniest) laughs of the film, but they were few and far between.
As I understand it, these guys graduated from Colgate University and have been making movies for awhile. But if you're looking for a North American comedy group to succeed The Kids in the Hall, or Saturday Night Live, their claim to lineage doesn't justify their spotty repertoire. If you liked the film and have an HD player, it's probably worth the slight video and noticeable audio upgrades, but if you're demoing the soundtrack for someone, I will find you, and I will hurt you.
The court's Jay Chandrasekhar bias aside, the verdict is for the Broken Lizard troupe to spend one week playing non-stop rounds of Beer Hunter until they relieve themselves and promise to put together a film that is actually funny.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Jay Chandrasekhar and Steve Lemme
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