I should preface this review by stating that I like beer. Whether it ale or lager, pilsner or stout – I’m a big fan. So when I learned that Broken Lizard was working on a movie entitled “Beerfest” I was filled with a sense of nervous excitement.
After all, this is the group responsible for “Supertroopers!” Thus it would seem that a film about drinking beer, written by the same team responsible for one of my favorite comedies, would be a sure fire hit – just so long as the movie was more “Supertroopers,” and less “Club Dread” (Broken Lizard’s less successful follow-up).
The good news is that, while the film might not quite measure up to “Supertroopers’” lofty standards, “Beerfest” is a solid comedy that will definitely put you in the mood for malted barley and hops.
Q&A with ‘Beerfest’s Lemme & Stolhanske
At D.C.’s Brickskeller, Broken Lizard’s Steve Lemme and Erik Stolhanske talked about drinking, quarters and one Fantastic Voyage.
Where did you come up with the idea for Beerfest?
Steve Lemme: It’s funny because the idea for the movie literally came from the title. Kevin threw out the title “beerfest” and we figured that would be something that critics would just [hate]…you know, after the thrashing we took on “Club Dread,” we figured let’s really just go for it.
Did you have any struggles with Warner Brothers, because this is very much an R-rated comedy. Did they push you towards making it PG-13?
ES: Surprisingly the opposite.
Is it difficult to work with traditionally dramatic and established actors, such as Brian Cox in “Supertroopers” or Cloris Leachman in “Beerfest”?
SL: No, no, it’s actually much easier than you think.
What is your favorite drinking story?
SL: We were playing quarters to get ready for the movie, and Kevin [Heffernan] actually swallowed a quarter. So we were on quarter watch for the next few weeks, waiting to see what was going to happen.
Upon learning of their grandfather’s dying wish to have his ashes spread scattered at Oktoberfest, Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Paul Soter & Erik Stolhanske), travel to Germany where they drunkenly stumble upon a secret underground drinking competition, known as Beerfest (very much like the Kumatai from “Bloodsport,” except with chugging contests in the place of martial arts). There, the boys are told that their grandfather was little more than a stable boy and their beloved Great Gam Gam (Cloris Leachman) was actually in the service of the worlds oldest profession. When the brothers attempt to defend their family’s honor by challenging to Germans to a drinking contest, they suffer an agonizing defeat.
The embarrassing loss suffered at the hands of the “evil” Germans, prompts the Wolfhouse brothers to return to America, determined to reclaim their pride and win next year’s Beerfest championship. Before they can return to Germany however, Jan and Todd must reunite a group of legendary drinkers consisting of competitive eating champion Phil “Landfill” Krundle (Kevin Heffernan); lab technician Charlie “Fink” Finklestein (Steve Lemme); and former beer pong legend turned male street walker, Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar). Upon reuniting, the team discovers that their skills are diminished and rusty – but with the help of several kegs of beer and an inspirational training montage, they are able to return to their drunken glory.
Of course, the biggest draw for the movie is not the plot, but rather the beer. Of the 110 minutes, perhaps fifteen do not contain at least some degree of drinking (that is a conservative estimate). A good deal of the fun was watching the drinking games on screen and saying “oh yeah, I remember playing that game,” or “hey, that’s not how we played it!” There was a definite nostalgic quality to the “training” sequences, although there are a few scenes that feel as though the cast was having more fun on screen than the audience.
The cast of beer swilling buffoons, is largely made up of the familiar faces from the Broken Lizard team, with Heffernan (forever known as Officer Farva) once again assuming the role of overweight obnoxious loudmouth. This time however, he is teamed up with the uber-nerdy Steve Lemme (sporting a very unsettling “Larry Fine” hairstyle), and the two have an amusing rapport as the “Jock and Nerd” tandem. Chandrasekhar also does a solid job in his humorous portrayal of the “man with the shattered past,” while also providing a couple of shameful “I’ve been there” drunken moments. In addition, his character delivers one of the most commonly uttered phrases overheard in college: “I’m better when I’m drunk” (I can’t remember how many times I heard someone say that while playing a rousing game of quarters). Perhaps the film’s biggest laugh out loud moments belong to Cloris Leachman who was perfectly cast as the innocent yet bawdy, “Great Gam Gam” (decorum dictates that I not go into detail here, but those with a taste for vulgar fun will surely enjoy her antics).
Because it’s not meant for everybody (and clearly not written for the sake of film critics), it will be interesting to see how this film does at the box office. “Beerfest” shares a lot of the same elements found in “Supertroopers,” in that it is a fun movie that doesn’t try to be something which it is not (perhaps a lesson learned from “Club Dread”). The humor is crude, sophomoric and well deserving of the R rating. In short, it’s just what you would expect from a movie called “Beerfest.”