Starring: Paul Soter, Erik Stolhankse, Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, Steve Lemme, Cloris Leachman. Rated R.
Fans of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, the five-man team of lowbrow pranksters responsible for chaotic comedies like Super
Troopers and Club Dread, will undoubtedly celebrate the raunchy, scatological silliness that drives their latest
vehicle, Beerfest. Like those earlier films, Beerfest is willing to scrape the bottom of the barrel –
or, in this case, the keg – for a laugh, cheerfully barraging its audience with cringe-inducing gags about puking, peeing
and sodomy. Easy targets, you say? Sure, but for all the gross-out humor and dick jokes, the movie is informed by the same
subtle, devious wit that made Super Troopers such an unexpected pleasure. Director Jay Chandrasekhar never hesitates
to indulge an abstract riff, no matter how inane or absurd, and his creative methods of setting up a punch-line are, at times,
genuinely inspired. At other times, he seems content to settle for cheap payoffs, and the gags sputter accordingly.
At nearly two hours, Beerfest is a tad bloated, and one can’t help but wonder whether a little editing couldn’t
have produced more consistent comedy. The plot is beyond negligible: Two brothers (Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) travel
to Munich to spread their grandfather’s ashes at Oktoberfest. Once there, they discover the Beer Olympics, an underground
chugging contest that combines the mind-numbing pleasures of mass consumption with the aesthetic allure of topless blondes,
whose breasts essentially serve as a backdrop for all the drunken shenanigans. When the brothers are humiliated in their initial
quest for the gold, they vow vengeance and retreat to America, determined to assemble a team of world-class lushes.
After a year of rigorous training, the brothers return to the Fatherland with their college drinking buddies (fellow Broken
Lizard vets Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme), who prove equally adept at mutilating their livers and poking
vicious fun at their German adversaries. (Characters are routinely dragged off-screen and executed, in a not-so-subtle nod
to Holocaust atrocities.) The resulting competition is a spotty, sometimes tedious affair that wears its boisterous crudity
on its pilsner-soaked sleeve. And though this Beerfest delivers more than a few gut laughs, it never generates enough
of a rhythm to overcome the set-ups that fall flat. To be sure, the first few sips are refreshing, but beware the backwash.