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Beerfest!I should preface this review by stating that I like beer. Whether it ale or lager, pilsner or stout – I’m a big fan. So when I learned that Broken Lizard was working on a movie entitled “Beerfest” I was filled with a sense of nervous excitement.

 After all, this is the group responsible for “Supertroopers!” Thus it would seem that a film about drinking beer, written by the same team responsible for one of my favorite comedies, would be a sure fire hit – just so long as the movie was more “Supertroopers,” and less “Club Dread” (Broken Lizard’s less successful follow-up).

The good news is that, while the film might not quite measure up to “Supertroopers’” lofty standards, “Beerfest” is a solid comedy that will definitely put you in the mood for malted barley and hops.

Q&A with ‘Beerfest’s Lemme & Stolhanske

At D.C.’s Brickskeller, Broken Lizard’s Steve Lemme and Erik Stolhanske talked about drinking, quarters and one Fantastic Voyage.

Where did you come up with the idea for Beerfest?

Steve Lemme: It’s funny because the idea for the movie literally came from the title. Kevin threw out the title “beerfest” and we figured that would be something that critics would just [hate]…you know, after the thrashing we took on “Club Dread,” we figured let’s really just go for it.
Erik Stolhanske: They’ll rip us a new one with “Beerfest.”
SL: Yeah… “Broken Lizard’s Beerfest.”
ES: The idea really came about when we were promoting “Supertroopers,” and [the studio] had sent us down to Australia. They wanted us to get up on stage [at a beergarden] with our stupid uniforms and announce: [Australian accent] “From America, it’s the Supertroopers.” So we said, screw this, this is embarrassing – no one was even responding because the movie hadn’t even come out yet. We decided it would be more fun to challenge their top five drinkers in an act of pure manlihood to come up and take us on in a drinking contest. All of a sudden everyone’s heads turned and instantly we had their attention. These five Aussies charged up the on stage, wearing rugby shirts. They wanted to crush us. SL: [Australian accent] “There’s a bunch of Yanks on stage, they think they can out drink us.” ES: Then everyone came around the stage, and we did this drink off where they squeaked it out, and barely beat us – we all became instant friends. We just laughed as we ran away from there thinking that would be a fun environment— if every country had their top five drinkers and went at it.

Did you have any struggles with Warner Brothers, because this is very much an R-rated comedy. Did they push you towards making it PG-13?

ES: Surprisingly the opposite.
SL: They wanted more.
ES: They wanted us to push it.
SL: The head of the studio told us he was going to look the other way on this one. After the original screening tested pretty well, they gave us some extra money to shoot a couple of days of extra, bawdier material. They asked for more nudity.

Is it difficult to work with traditionally dramatic and established actors, such as Brian Cox in “Supertroopers” or Cloris Leachman in “Beerfest”?

SL: No, no, it’s actually much easier than you think.
ES: These guys are usually only offered the most serious roles – they just don’t get comedies very often. So when they are offered a comedy, their eyes light up. Like [Cox] grew up a Jerry Lewis fan, and he always wanted to do these broad physical comedies. So he was thrilled to do “Supertroopers” and he just went off. There were a lot of things that he did which we had to cut. We wanted to keep them, but it would have been a three-hour movie. That scene where we trashed Grady’s house at the end of the movie turned out to be a 20-minute scene where he was just breaking windows. He grabbed a hose and filled the guy’s pick-up truck with water…he did all of this stuff and he was just improvising. SL: And by that way, this was a low budget movie, so it was a real person’s house. We had to hold the people back, as Brian Cox was trashing these people’s house and smashing flower pots on their lawn. ES: It was similar with Cloris Leachman. She loves comedies and she’s bawdy as hell. She’ll go anywhere the joke goes. I know a lot of people say this, but we honestly wrote the script with her in mind. She showed up and was dirtier than all of us combined.

What is your favorite drinking story?

SL: We were playing quarters to get ready for the movie, and Kevin [Heffernan] actually swallowed a quarter. So we were on quarter watch for the next few weeks, waiting to see what was going to happen.
ES: I went over to Home Depot to find a stud finder. We tried to track the progress.
SL: We never saw it come out. We always joked that when it came out George Washington would have this horrified look on his face.
ES: Quite a fantastic voyage.

Upon learning of their grandfather’s dying wish to have his ashes spread scattered at Oktoberfest, Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Paul Soter & Erik Stolhanske), travel to Germany where they drunkenly stumble upon a secret underground drinking competition, known as Beerfest (very much like the Kumatai from “Bloodsport,” except with chugging contests in the place of martial arts). There, the boys are told that their grandfather was little more than a stable boy and their beloved Great Gam Gam (Cloris Leachman) was actually in the service of the worlds oldest profession. When the brothers attempt to defend their family’s honor by challenging to Germans to a drinking contest, they suffer an agonizing defeat.

The embarrassing loss suffered at the hands of the “evil” Germans, prompts the Wolfhouse brothers to return to America, determined to reclaim their pride and win next year’s Beerfest championship. Before they can return to Germany however, Jan and Todd must reunite a group of legendary drinkers consisting of competitive eating champion Phil “Landfill” Krundle (Kevin Heffernan); lab technician Charlie “Fink” Finklestein (Steve Lemme); and former beer pong legend turned male street walker, Barry Badrinath (Jay Chandrasekhar). Upon reuniting, the team discovers that their skills are diminished and rusty – but with the help of several kegs of beer and an inspirational training montage, they are able to return to their drunken glory.

Of course, the biggest draw for the movie is not the plot, but rather the beer. Of the 110 minutes, perhaps fifteen do not contain at least some degree of drinking (that is a conservative estimate). A good deal of the fun was watching the drinking games on screen and saying “oh yeah, I remember playing that game,” or “hey, that’s not how we played it!” There was a definite nostalgic quality to the “training” sequences, although there are a few scenes that feel as though the cast was having more fun on screen than the audience.

The cast of beer swilling buffoons, is largely made up of the familiar faces from the Broken Lizard team, with Heffernan (forever known as Officer Farva) once again assuming the role of overweight obnoxious loudmouth. This time however, he is teamed up with the uber-nerdy Steve Lemme (sporting a very unsettling “Larry Fine” hairstyle), and the two have an amusing rapport as the “Jock and Nerd” tandem. Chandrasekhar also does a solid job in his humorous portrayal of the “man with the shattered past,” while also providing a couple of shameful “I’ve been there” drunken moments. In addition, his character delivers one of the most commonly uttered phrases overheard in college: “I’m better when I’m drunk” (I can’t remember how many times I heard someone say that while playing a rousing game of quarters).  Perhaps the film’s biggest laugh out loud moments belong to Cloris Leachman who was perfectly cast as the innocent yet bawdy, “Great Gam Gam” (decorum dictates that I not go into detail here, but those with a taste for vulgar fun will surely enjoy her antics).  

Because it’s not meant for everybody (and clearly not written for the sake of film critics), it will be interesting to see how this film does at the box office. “Beerfest” shares a lot of the same elements found in “Supertroopers,” in that it is a fun movie that doesn’t try to be something which it is not (perhaps a lesson learned from “Club Dread”). The humor is crude, sophomoric and well deserving of the R rating. In short, it’s just what you would expect from a movie called “Beerfest.”

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