Returning the ashes of their dead grandfather to Oktoberfest in Munich, brothers Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd (Erik Stolhanske) are mistakenly introduced to Beerfest, a “Fight Club” style underground beer drinking game competition. Immediately spanked by the all-powerful German squad (including SNL’s Will Forte and the grindingly unfunny Eric Christian Olsen), the boys return home looking to build the ultimate drinking lineup and return next year to redeem themselves. Armed with old boozehound friends Fink (Steve Lemme), Landfill (Kevin Heffernan), and Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar), the team is set, but struggle to regain the alcoholic assurance they once had.
Look out! It’s “Man Show: The Movie.”
By now, the name Broken Lizard attached to a picture should mean something, rightr For better or worse, the personalities of the performers should’ve gelled by now, with each cast member playing to their distinctive strengths. Yet, when I see Broken Lizard’s name on a film, I know what’s really coming: nap time.
This is the Lizard’s fourth film. Actually the fifth, if you count last summer’s “Dukes of Hazzard” abortion, but you rarely catch people admitting they’ve seen it. Unfortunately, if their cult hit “Super Troopers” hadn’t taken off with college crowds, we wouldn’t have to deal with them today. After their last official outing, the excruciatingly misguided and aptly titled “Club Dread,” the Lizard have returned to their frat boy pandering ways with “Beerfest,” a picture guaranteed to have a long, healthy shelf life at universities around America simply because it centers on drinking, breasts, and burping.
Continuing the theme of my earlier reviews of Lizard product, I still don’t comprehend what makes this troupe funny. Unlike Monty Python or the Kids in the Hall, the members of Broken Lizard are nondescript, interchangeable, and have this unbearable need to underline and exclamation point every joke they attempt. Of course, it could be argued that any film entitled “Beerfest” might not be a Venus Flytrap for subtlety, but I get the feeling watching this mess of a film that the Lizard never quite grasped the idea of a nuanced gag. To them, it’s not enough to have scientist Fink masturbate a frog; it must finish on his face for the joke to be properly buttoned. Or that the very idea of casting Jurgen Prochnow and placing him on a submarine set is worth a passing film geek chuckle; Prochnow must gesticulate wildly and wonder to himself if “he’s been here before.”
Over and over the broadly pitched humor in “Beerfest” fails to fly, relying on the limited means of the generic cast to make it jump off the page. This is a cartoon film, wallpapered with stereotype comedy (Steve Lemme, in amateur-hour makeup as the themed-yarmulke-wearing, German-hating Jew, comes the closest to out loud repulsion) and offers continuous opportunities for the Lizard boys to pat themselves on the back for being so hilarious. Of course, in “Hazzard,” director Jay Chandrasekhar thought blackface was a gut-busting jump off for comedy, so I’m not too shocked that “Beerfest” dies when it sets aside ample time for the troupe to put on a show. These guys look like a bunch of accountants making movies on their smoke break, and “Beerfest” isn’t made to please anybody but their fraternity brothers still chained to their Peter Pan Syndrome.
“Beerfest” is searching to please through the warm sentimentality of binge drinking. At a criminal 110 minutes, the Lizard tend to repeat themselves ad nauseam (hey look, a quarters gag…again) when they aren’t burning through pages and pages of exposition just to establish this threadbare madcap tale. Again, it’s “Beerfest.” It shouldn’t take 20 minutes of screentime to get the ball rolling on what essentially becomes an electrical parade of Muppet-like overacting and nonstop belching. As long as “Strange Brew” still stands on any home entertainment format, there’s no reason to even attempt another beer comedy.Rating: D-