Paul Soter as Jan Wolfhouse
Erik Stolhanske as Todd Wolfhouse/Young Baron Ludwig
Kevin Heffernan as Landfill/Gil/Sausage Lady
Jay Chandrasekhar as Barry/Blind Sikh
Steve Lemme as Steve “Fink” Finklestein/Emcee
Cloris Leachman as Great Gam Gam
Jürgen Prochnow as Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen
Will Forte as Otto
Nat Faxon as Rolf
Eric Christian Olsen as Gunter
Ralf Moeller as Hammacher
Gunter Schlierkamp as Schlemmer
Blanchard Ryan as Krista Krundle
Mo’Nique as Cherry
M.C. Gainey as Priest
Cameron Scher as Helmut
Bjorn Johnson as Mr. Schniedelwichsen
Philippe Brenninkmeyer as Herr Referee
Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
Following the adage to “write what you know,” Broken Lizard takes what could have been a ridiculously silly premise and added their usual clever wit to offer literally a laugh a minute.
After traveling to Munich to bury the ashes of their grandfather at Oktoberfest, Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske) discover Beerfest, the secret Olympics of beer-drinking games that pits countries against each other. After being humiliated by the German team, they go back home, intent on forming their own team to return to Beerfest and defend the honor of their family and country.
[Note: As an empirical test, this movie was watched twiceonce after drinking two Rotterberg’s German Ale and a second time after drinking two O’Doole’s non-alcoholic beer. The results were essentially the same–read on.]
With the resurgence of R-rated comedies, the college institution that is the Broken Lizard comedy troupe returns with a movie that’s right on track with their normal fratboy humor, yet adding a certain degree of cleverness and, dare I say, maturity to what might have been the most obvious premise for humor since snakes were put on a plane.
After a tongue-in-cheek warning about the dangers of drinking, the movie is literally an hour and 45 minutes of the guys drinking beers in various forms, capacities and levels, making this the most comprehensive instructional video on how to imbibe.
Before getting to the serious drinking, we’re introduced to the Wolfhouse brothers on the day of their grandfather’s funeral, as their “Great Gam-Gam,” played by Cloris Leachman, asks them to take his ashes to Munich to bury at Oktoberfest. Instead, they end up at the secret Beerfest games, where they’re humiliated and pelted with lettuce after being defeated by the German drinking team made up of distant relatives who claim their grandfather stole their secret recipe for beer.
It’s not much of a story set-up and a bit of a rough start, since Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske aren’t the strongest members of Broken Lizard and couldn’t really carry this movie, but on their return to America, once the brothers start assembling their own Beerfest team, things pick up with the introduction of the nutty characters played by the other three guys:
Barry, a beer gaming champ from their college days, has fallen on hard times, selling his body and sexual favors on the street for very little money, and for whatever reason, director Jay Chandrasekhar decided to put himself into all sorts of embarrassing situations as Barry, but also getting some of the best laughs with extended bits including a drunken one-night stand gone wrong.
Steve Lemme, usually the BL’s heartthrob, does a bit of an about-face as nebbishy Jewish scientist Steve Finkelstein, whose day job involves “getting gamede” out of frogs. Kevin Heffernan’s “Landfill,” who can eat and drink anything, will probably be everyone’s favorite, because Heffernan is clearly the most naturally funny guy in the group, so he makes the most out of even the silliest of scenarios, including a clever and unexpected dual plot twist.
It’s immediately obvious how much stronger Broken Lizard is when together on screen as a team rather than as disparate characters with a lot of great laughs coming from the shaky relationships between their characters.
Other than that, it’s hard to put into words why the movie is so funny without outright giving away some of the best bits or punch lines. Although not every gag is a home run, enough of them get on base to keep you laughing fairly consistently. The guys realize that this sort of competition movie, whether it be in sports dramas or movies like “Animal House,” are very predictable and full of cliches, so when all else fails, they make fun of that aspect of their own movie.
True, as the bad guys, the German team take the stereotypes to outlandish heights thanks to over-the-top performances by SNL’s Will Forte and Eric Christian Olsen, but credibility is added by the presence of serious German actor Jurgen Prochnow as the team’s leader. Prochnow even gets to poke a bit of fun at his breakthrough hit “Das Boot,” although it goes by so fast that it will go over many heads.
Prochnow is just one of the ringers brought in by the guys, while Cloris Leachman reaquires her wacky German accent from playing Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein,” and she gets to let loose with a lot of swearing and nastiness that will make you glad that the guys didn’t take some of her scenes even further. Mo’Nique also gets in on the fun, offering the movie’s only real action scene, but also having a few “love scenes” to boot; saying any more would ruin the impact of the humor.
It’s a bit annoying (and deceiving) that some of the funniest things from the trailer and commercials are nowhere to be found in the movie, but the stuff that did make it in is so much raunchier than anything in the trailer, so it’s forgiveable. Once it gets to the actual Beerfest, the laughs settle down a bit but by then, the guys have already won you over to their side and have you rooting for them, as the movie turns into a montage of every single beer-drinking game imaginable and a few new ones “to boot.”
A silly comedy like this could have been a disaster in anyone else’s hands, but Broken Lizard knows just the right formula of sight gags, one-liners and gross-out humor to make this another comedy classic on par with “Super Troopers.”
The Bottom Line:
Of course, fans of Broken Lizard will know exactly what kind of raunchy and subversive fun to expect from a movie with a title like “Beerfest,” but the premise is simple enough that one doesn’t have to appreciate their brand of humor to laugh at even the dumbest of gags. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself shaking your head and then laughing your ass off at the next bad joke. There’s no question that this would be a fun movie to see with the guys after a night of downing brews.