directed by Jay Chandrasekhar
(Broken Lizard, 2006)

You have to love any comedy that throws up a warning screen before the opening credits -- in this case, it's a warning to leave the serious beer-drinking to the professionals (or else you will die). Mr. Big Man on Campus may be able to drink his frat buddies under the table, but he probably wouldn't last five minutes at Beerfest. It's much more than a contest to see who can drink the most beer in the shortest amount of time. Beerfest is a veritable mini-Olympics of brewsky, with such games as beer pong, quarters and the formidable Das Boot helping determine the overall champion team. This is truly where the big boys play.

Upon the death of their grandfather, Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske) travel to Munich to carry out his last request -- having his ashes scattered in his homeland during Oktoberfest. There is nothing somber about this occasion, though, as an abundance of beer and women's breasts quickly extinguish whatever grief they may have been feeling.

Then their guide takes them to Beerfest, and they think they've died and gone to heaven -- at first. All that changes when their German cousin, Wolfgang von Wolfhaus (Jurgen Prochnow) orders them to leave and attacks their family honor by accusing their dead grandfather of stealing the renowned family beer recipe and fleeing to America with his prostitute of a mother. Being humiliated by a bunch of pansy Germans with their Hans and Franz accents and tight little lederhosen doesn't sit well with the Wolfhouses. Upon returning home, they vow to form a team and return to Beerfest next year so that they can have their revenge.

As far as team members go, the guys fall back on some old college drinking buddies. "Landfill" (Kevin Heffeman), still bitter about having lost his job at a brewery for drinking too much of the outgoing beer, is an easy sell to join the team -- and they don't call him Landfill for nothing. "Fink" Finkelstein (Steve Lemme), now a scientist spending most of his time masturbating frogs, doesn't look like a beer drinker, but you know how those wiry guys can fool you -- and he's smart, hopefully smart enough to figure out the trick of conquering Das Boot, Beerfest's ultimate tie-breaking contest. Fink's not too high on the idea of participating at first -- but his reluctance disappears completely when he learns that the enemy is German (never underestimate the power of the "eye of the Jew").

Then there's the somewhat controversial choice of Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar, doing triple duty as actor, co-writer and director). Barry is really down on his luck nowadays, and there's also the fact that he slept with Jan's (or was it Todd's) girlfriend back in college, so there's always some underlying friction there. As the guys begin their training, though, they all come together -- putting their health, jobs, families, even their lives on the line as they focus on winning the championship. The German team, especially von Wolfhaus, has some dirty tricks up its sleeve, though, making their play for the long-lost family beer recipe weeks before the contest. Their sneaky blitzkrieg tactics threaten to break up the American team, but these guys are playing for everything they hold dear -- the long-lost beer recipe, their Great-Gam-Gam (Cloris Leachman), all underdogs, each other, as well as for America. And so this becomes a story of the underdog daring to dream and trying to make that dream a reality.

I thought this movie was pretty hilarious. The whole Beerfest atmosphere is a hoot, the guys' training regimen produces many a funny moment, the dialogue holds many a good joke and the actors really gel together quite well despite their obvious differences. Yes, there's nudity and a fair amount of toilet humor (sometimes literally), but what else would you expect from a film of this type? And don't go thinking it's a completely cookie-cutter plot either, as Beerfest introduced a couple of story elements I never expected (starting with the end of the very first scene). Not since Strange Brew have I been this entertained by a movie about beer and the men who drink it.

review by
Daniel Jolley

4 August 2007

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