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Friday, August 25, 2006

Beerfest

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I attended the premiere showing of Beerfest at the Essex Cinemas this week. I did it for you, Dear Readers, because Beerfest is not the kind of movie I would usually choose to see on my own ~ at least not when I am sober. Perhaps if I had seen it in one of my old haunts in Washington DC, the Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse, a combination movie theater and bar, it might have had more appeal, at least after a pitcher or two, but through clear eyes and an unfoggy mind it is hard to see the point of this ambling yet amiable suds-happy puddle of silliness.

There is a cocktail napkin thin plot to Beerfest, but it is really just a weak contrivance to explain why brothers Todd (Erik Stolhanske; Broken Lizard's Club Dread) and Jan Wolfhouse (also Broken Lizard's Club Dread) begin their year-long training to become the best endurance beer-drinkers in the world. The bulk of the story revolves around the brothers recruiting and working with their friends Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar; director of Beerfest and The Dukes of Hazzard), Steve "Fink" Finklestein (Steve Lemme; The Dukes of Hazzard), and Charlie aka “Landfill” (Kevin Heffernan; On the One) to prepare for competition in a secret underground beer drinking Olympics, the Beerfest, held for centuries each year during the regular Oktoberfest in Munich. Beerfest is serious business, and, like Fight Club, the first rule of Beerfest is not to talk about Beerfest. If someone who knows about the competition spreads the word without permission to do so, he or she is shot dead immediately. It’s just that simple. Cheers!

As for Jan and Todd, they are determined to win the Beerfest to redeem the name of their dead grandfather, who has been besmirched by his brother, Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen (Jürgen Prochnow; The Celestine Prophecy), who calls the boys’ grandfather a “stable boy and thief”, accusing him of stealing the family’s recipe for the finest beer in Germany. On top of that he insists that their beloved great grandmother, Great Gam Gam, delightfully played by veteran actress Cloris Leachman (Spanglish), was a common prostitute. Leachman steals every scene she is in, and she definitely proves that while she may be 80 she is hip enough to try just about any joke to get a laugh. She even does things with a summer sausage that would make just about anyone blush in real life.

Much of the movie is consumed with the fine art of consumption. The boys down
gallons and gallons of beer, showing the audience new ways, or at least different ways, to drink until blacking out. There are also many entertaining scenes that illustrate the characters better, such as when we see Barry’s visions of himself and a woman he picks up in the Wolfhouses’ bar. We first see him as he sees himself and her through his drunken eyes then the camera cuts back and forth to show us them as they really look, undistorted by alcohol. This encounter is pricelessly followed by the proverbial morning after wake-up “What was I thinking?” moment when Barry discovers that the “10” he went home with was actually a “0.10”. We also get to know “Fink” while visiting him in the lab where he works and teaches young scientists the art of extracting semen from frogs. I’m sure it’s not exactly a career high most biologists think about while planning for their futures.

Most of Beerfest is a silly parade of sight gags and weak jokes such as these. The Wolfhouse family’s restaurant and bar is called The Schnitzengiggles, which pretty much explains the content of the movie itself. Some of the jokes are so far-fetched they are funny, like the German drinking team invading the American team’s turf in a small Colorado town from their post aboard a World War II German U-Boat which somehow has conveniently been relocated to the nearby lake. Others, unfortunately, fall flat. Full-figured comedienne Mo’Nique (Phat Girlz) plays a spy who also is the gal who gets busy with Barry in the bedroom, and the full-on sex scene with her 250 pound plus bouncing bum writhing all over the much smaller Jay Chandrasekhar might be funny for 10 seconds or so, but this scene seems to go on forever, and that’s the biggest problem with Beerfest. It never seems to know when to stop. Think of it as a big screen version of a "Saturday Night Live" skit. What should have and could have been accomplished in thirty minutes drags on for an hour and a half.

Still, Beerfest will definitely appeal to the young male market. What it lacks in plot it makes up fo
r in breasts, which are exposed as randomly and as often as Lindsey Lohan pops up in gossip columns during the course of any given month. One man slips and falls, grabbing a nubile young thing’s blouse on the way down and off comes her shirt, beginning a chain reaction that leaves another seven or eight models supposedly shocked (but never thinking to cover themselves), suddenly posing provocatively and topless in front of the cameras. For some reason there are no unattractive women in this movie except when they are designed to be the butt of a joke. Otherwise, all are gorgeous Playmate material, with the 4B Seal of Approval ~ Blonde, Beautiful, Brainless, and Braless, and wearing flimsy, easily destroyed clothing, just waiting around for the stars of the movie to “accidentally” rip them off.

When I staggered out of the theater, Assistant Manager Karen Chapman took one look at me and asked me how I was. I wasn’t sure whether to tell her I was suddenly in need of a drink, directions to the nearest AA meeting, or just in need of some aspirin to relieve that odd feeling I had, like I’d just woke up the morning after a real bender ~ I had a headache, was nauseous, dry-mouthed and regretted the fact that those where precious minutes of my life I’d never get back. Such is Beerfest, so much like the real thing, but without the buzz of a really good time.

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