Strange Brew
directed by Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas
(Warner, 1983)

So, uh, good day, eh? Unless you're a complete hoser, you can't help but love Strange Brew, one of the funniest dumb movies ever made.

My introduction to Bob and Doug McKenzie came in the form of their hit song, "Take Off," which I thought was a comic gem. Having created the McKenzie brothers on Canada's SCTV, it was only natural that Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis would further expand their comic empire by making a movie. Strange Brew is that film, and it really is hilarious. Most low-budget films with a mere farce of a plot would tank, but the boys from the Great White North strike gold -- largely because the film's only real purpose is to give the boys an hour and a half to be Bob and Doug McKenzie. The real beauty part of it all, though, is the fact that the story actually plays off of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

When the lion burps instead of roars at the beginning of a film, you know you're in for a different kind of viewing experience. Those unfamiliar with the classic McKenzie television skits may well wonder what the heck is going on at first, as you start out with Bob and Doug introducing a film they made about a nuclear holocaust. That film breaks (at which point we see Bob and Doug inside a crowded theatre full of disgruntled, quickly departing moviegoers), and that's when the real movie begins.

Basically, the brothers have to get some beer, but they don't have any money. Trying to convince a clerk to give them free beer doesn't work, so they decide to head on up to Elsinore Brewery, the birthplace of their favorite beer, hoping the old mouse in a bottle trick can score them some free brewskis. They soon find themselves very unwittingly involved in a power struggle between the brewery founder's daughter and her lascivious uncle. The brewmeister is really calling the shots, however, and he's up to no good. If his plans succeed, he will make the beer so addictive that the whole world will do his bidding -- that's the plan, anyway.

Like most breweries, Elsinore has a mental institution connected to it, giving Brewmeister Smith (Max Von Sydow) a ready supply of test subjects. I'm a little vague on the intricacies of the whole thing, but the experimentation consists of using bad synthesizer music to compel mental patients to put on full body armor and play hockey. It sounds weird, but apparently that's the quick way to power and wealth in Canada. Even though they are completely clueless about basically everything going on around them and have no real skills apart from excessive beer-guzzling, Bob and Doug prove to be a thorn in the brewmeister's side, which puts the boys in danger. Are they smart enough to survive and save the world from the bad guy's evil plans? And, if they fail, what will become of their dog Hosehead, who is dependent on his own steady diet of beer?

It's basically impossible to explain the humor of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Any description of it would just make it sound extremely lame and moronic (actually, I guess because it is lame and moronic), but Thomas and Moranis make for a formidable comic team when you see them in action. No line or plot device is too silly for these guys, and they constantly play off one another with perfect timing, unleashing one eminently quotable line after another. The humor doesn't stop with the end of the movie, either, as the boys are back to review their own film and to give us some insight on the movie-making business while the credits roll.

Of course, anyone who likes to put on intellectual airs will snub this movie to his dying breath, but we all know he's secretly laughing inside. This is just pure, unadulterated comedy, and it really is a beauty way to go. Whatever you do, don't take off before treating yourself to this comedy classic. You'll find yourself ending a lot of your sentences with "eh?" for the following few days, but that side effect isn't permanent unless you just keep re-watching the film and/or listening to the McKenzies' album on a daily basis.

by Daniel Jolley
3 June 2006

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