Monday, 6 August 2007

Beerfest (2006)

Monday, 6 August 2007
DIRECTOR: Jay Chandrasekhar
WRITERS: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Hefferman, Steve Lemme & Erik Stolhanske
CAST: Paul Soter (Jan Wolfhouse), Erik Stolhanske (Todd Wolfhouse), Jay Chandrasekhar (Barry Badrinath), Kevin Hefferman (Phil "Landfill" Krundle/Gil "Landfill" Krundle), Steve Lemme (Charlie "Fink" Finkelstein), Jurgen Prochnow (Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen), Will Forte (Otto), Eric Christian Olsen (Gunter), Ralp Moeller (Hammacher), Gunter Schlierkamp (Schlemmer), Nat Faxon (Rolf), Mo'Nique (Cherry), Donald Sutherland (Johann Von Wolfhausen), Cloris Leachman (Great Gam Gam), Blanchard Ryan (Krista Krundle), Philippe Brenninkmeyer (Herr Referee), Candance Smith (Naomi), Willie Nelson (Himself), James Roday (German Messenger) & John Shumski (Alternate German Messenger)

Two brothers travel to Germany during Oktoberfest and stumble upon a secret underground beer-drinking contest...

I've yet to be sold on the supposed charms of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe; a five-piece who have made three movies since 1996, but found only one success (2002's DVD cult hit Super Troopers). The Broken Lizard team consist of Jay Chandrasekhar (who directs all their films) and actors Kevin Hefferman, Steve Lemme and Erik Stolhanske.

Their fourth movie is Beerfest, another of their low-brow comedies with a fratboy mentality. Germanic-American brothers Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske), fly to the Fatherland during Oktoberfest, to scatter the ashes of their father Johann Von Wolfhausen (Donald Sutherland in cameo hell).

Once in the land of lederhosen cliche, they stumble upon a secret underground contest, where the world's best boozers compete for ultimate supremacy. After being humiliated by the German team, led by Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen (Jurgen Prochnow), the brothers travel home with their tails between their legs... but swear revenge by entering the competition next year with Team USA...

Beerfest itself is a good, silly concept for a dumb film and contains a few nice ideas and three sizeable laughs. But that's not enough to sustain 110 minutes, with the humour straining after 30 minutes. As you'd expect, the film takes great delight in mocking world nationalities (particularly "the krauts"), but the script's own stupidity is revealed when Team England carry a Union Flag despite Scotland's involvement. Other examples of the film's blinkered worldview proliferate the film, unintentionally.

I have no problem with crass humour, but there are ways to handle grossout hilarity whilst still maintaining intelligence. Sadly, it's a balancing act that proves to be shakier than one of the film's Irish drunks.

Beerfest is also guilty of giving in to lazy stereotypes at every single turn, from Team Sweden consisting of (yep, you guessed it) blonde models, to Team Canada wearing hockey jerseys. Oh, and don't get me started on the absolutely terrible accents from all involved. It's all very obvious and very boring. This is a South Park episode stretched to breaking point.

The two lead actors can't carry a movie, never once driving the plot sufficiently or becoming particularly likeable. They're both totally upstaged by the second tier cast, particularly Jay Chandrasekhar as Barry Badrinath (a faded drinking games expert) and Kevin Hefferman as Landfill (a chubby lagerhead). Steve Lemme as scientist Fink is okay, but never funny; even managing to make a "frog masturbation scene" icky instead of giggly.

A few famous faces can be seen wasting their time here; Cloris Leachman as Gram Gram (a sweet-faced former whore from Germany), the aforementioned Donald Sutherland, a late cameo from Willie Nelson and Jurgen Prochnow (shamelessly ridiculing his homeland with a series of crass stereotypes and cliches). Only a throwaway Das Boot gag hits the spot.

At the end of the day, all comedies live or die with their ability to make you laugh. Pure and simple. While Beerfest has its moments, only a "beer goggles" skit proves memorable -- and even that is overplayed and given a stupid pay-off.

Ultimately, the idea of Beerfest is ten times funnier than the actual movie. I wasn't expecting anything to rewrite the comedy rulebook, or anything intellectual from a film called Beerfest, but a few worthwhile laughs, insightful commentary and well-drawn characters would have helped!

Still, with a wretched filmography that includes Puddle Cruiser (1996), Club Dread (2004) and, in a spiritual sense anyway, The Dukes Of Hazzard (2005), Beerfest is still Broken Lizard's best film. It won't have the same cult appeal as Super Troopers, but it has more gags per minute. It's just a shame 95% of the jokes are lazy, underwritten, coarse and obvious.

Warning: don't watch if sober.

Warner Brothers
Budget: $12 million (est.)
110 minutes