SOME MOVIES were made to be viewed when you’re drunk. Feet up on sofa, pizza boxes stacked on the coffee table in a loud room with a bunch of friends, laughing at every silly joke because you’re all completely sauced.
I had a suspicion that “Beerfest,” the comedy from the Broken Lizard comedy team (“Super Troopers”), would be just that kind of movie, so I tuned up with a pre-screening sixpack. I shoulda sneaked in a 40, too, because by the final reel, the fun was wearing off.
It’s not that “Beerfest” isn’t funny. Doesn’t everyone like a good Nazi joke?
The problem is, the plot is so lame that, without a good buzz on, eventually – probably about the time one of the characters wakes up to the uncomfortable realization he’s exchanged saliva with the keg-sized Mo’Nique – you’re going to sober up with a head full of regret.
The “beer goggles” affect doesn’t last forever (in love or movies). Sad, because while beer seems so ripe for great comedy, it has rarely gotten its due from Hollywood. Think about it: Other than a stray Three Stooges episode and “Strange Brew,” the McKenzie Brothers romp, can you name a single decent beer movie?
Meanwhile, wine – that snobby little drama queen – gets top billing. I ask: Where is the “Sideways” of beer?
Jay Chandrasekhar and Paul Soter, “Beerfest’s” co-writers and stars, told me over beers at McGillin’s Old Ale House earlier this month that the Broken Lizard comedy troupe had set out to film “a love letter to beer.” Which I suppose “Beerfest” is, if you mean a chugging contests with pitchers served by half-nekkid chicks.
That’s the scene Jan Wolfhouse (Soter) and his brother, Todd (Erik Stolhanske), stumble upon while attempting to find a suitable place to spread the ashes of their deceased grandfather (Donald Sutherland) during Germany’s annual Oktoberfest. The super-secret international competition is the Olympics of suds; imagine the Mummers Parade if the judging was for beer consumption, not costumes and banjos.
The brothers are summarily stomped by the Germans, who laugh them off as Zima-drinking amateurs. No red-blooded, can-crushing ‘Merican would let that slide, so the two put together a team for next year’s contest.
There’s Barry (Chandrasekhar), the beer pong/quarter-flipping expert who’s lost his touch. And Landslide (Kevin Heffernan), the mammoth gulper who turned to hot dogs after losing his job at the brewery.
And Fink (Steve Lemme), the German-hating Jewish scientist who uses his brain to solve one of the world’s great beer-chugging mysteries.
With help from Great Gam Gam (Cloris Leachman), the team goes through a “Rocky”-like training regimen that embraces massive consumption of our favorite adult beverage. Which is why I have a soft spot for this movie.
Beer on the screen is almost always a code for the vile: poverty, crime, blue-collar hopelessness.
“When people talk about beer in the media,” Chandrasekhar told me, “it’s universally negative. It’s wife-beating and driving while intoxicated. But the reality is, a great portion of the country goes and out and drinks beer and has nothing but fun!”
“We’ve vilified something that’s a terrific thing,” said Soter.
Indeed, we’ve gotten so touchy about drunkenness, no major beer-maker sought any product-placement deals with the movie. “They’ve perpetuated this sham of drinking responsibly,” Soter said, tongue partly in cheek. “They couldn’t support a movie about drinking irresponsibly.”
Other than a quick admonition against drunken driving, “Beerfest” is unapologetic about beer. There’s no moralizing, no finger-wagging.
It’s as proud as a healthy belch, right in your face.
Produced by Michael Beugg, directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, written by Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske (as Broken Lizard), distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.