Beerfest begins with a half-serious, half-jokey Jackass-style crawl warning audiences not to mimic the nearly two hours of slamming and shotgunning they’re about to see.
Not to condone over-consumption of alcohol, but it’s guaranteed that any stories you and your friends tell about the time(s) you drank too much are far funnier than much of Beerfest.
For the college-trained, five-man comedy troupe Broken Lizard, it’s the third-straight scattered, lifeless movie trying to cash in on the brand of Super Troopers. That sophomoric comedy about dimwitted cops was no comedy classic, but had some memorably amusing moments.
Since then, Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske have blacked out as humorists. Thanks to Chandrasekhar’s directing gig, the group was involved in the execrable The Dukes of Hazzard, and dropped possessive-title claim to Beerfest after 2004’s Broken Lizard’s Club Dread easily was the worst comedy of this, or any, decade.
If any movie seemed destined to crawl toward feature-length status, it’s Beerfest, in which five Americans (played by the Broken Lizard crew) battle for international supremacy in an underground beer-games competition in Germany that’s one part Olympics, one part Fight Club.
American brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse (Stolhanske and Soter) discover Beerfest while visiting Germany to scatter the ashes of their grandfather, played by Donald Sutherland — the latest actor to unexpectedly appear with Broken Lizard, whose ghastly punchline is at least funny.
With events like the line chug, beer pong, trick quarters and the long pour, Beerfest isn’t for the meek or weak — which Todd and Jan are when challenging their arrogant German cousins. Humiliated by their defeat, and stinging accusations about their grandparents (namely Cloris Leachman as their “Gam-Gam”), Todd and Jan vow to train and return in one year to take Beerfest.
Their cohorts include: competitive-eating champion and fallen-from-grace brewery employee Phil “Landfill” Krundle (Heffernan); frizzy-haired Jewish chemist Steve “Fink” Finklestein (Lemme), who doesn’t really drink; and Barry Badrinath (Chandrasekhar), a former beer-games stud who hasn’t been the same since a match of beer pong in Thailand ended very badly for him.
The whole idea of Beerfest is better in theory than in the practice that takes up much of the movie, in which only Heffernan and Chandrasekhar have laugh-out-loud moments. Heffernan chugs the scenery at every opportunity and Chandrasekhar’s actions after the group’s first marathon-drinking training session provide a gruesomely hilarious payoff. These two have the strongest non-Broken Lizard careers, and they’d be wise to stray even farther from the brand name.
Once the Americans finally arrive at Beerfest, calling the Germans “umlauts” and “Deutschbags,” it’s at least stupidly entertaining. As the German heavy, Das Boot‘s Jurgen Prochnow cheekily remarks on a bad experience in a submarine and the exceptionally fake-looking computer-generated beer — shown while consuming a deadly boot full of beer — is funny.
At 110 minutes, the movie takes forever to get there, long for no reason other than for Broken Lizard to get geeky giggles on during closing-credit outtakes. Beerfest trickles on with predictable punchlines about masturbated frogs, Gam-Gam’s questionable chastity, oddball eulogies, Hands Across America, the Schnitzengiggle Tavern and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Then there’s the unknown-twin twist, which the troupe seems to see as some sort of spoof, but only makes the movie much, much longer. It all feels like deleted scenes on a DVD. Should Broken Lizard’s threatened sequel to this movie be made — and justice exists — it will hit that medium directly.
If Snakes on a Plane is a drinking game waiting to happen, Beerfest is a drinking-game movie waiting to happen.