Purveyors of boorish humor Broken Lizard aren’t willing to let a stinker knock them into cinematic oblivion. Fresh off building a brick wall in front of any Super Troopers momentum with horrifyingly unfunny Club Dread, the comedy troupe crack open a few cold ones and requires audiences do the same to stomach their first film to arrive on high definition home video, Beerfest.
Hidden deep in an industrial zone of Berlin, Germany is an annual alternative to Oktoberfest. Beerfest, as its known, is cruel to its competitors and even crueler to outsiders. The shady competition has remained secret to Americans until dweeb America brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse are unknowingly escorted there to spread their dead grandfather’s ashes. A familial connection and beer chugging loss to a braggart German team later and the brothers” return to America determined to enter Beerfest the following year with a team comprised of their long lost college fraternity friends.
Spending the majority of Beerfest hanging out with Todd, Jan and his cohorts while they haphazardly train for a beer drinking competition might have been fun if their characters were in the least bit interesting or funny. Todd and Jan, played by Eric Stolhanske and Paul Soter, carry the charisma of a drugged mule. Equally unimpressive are director Jay Chandrasekhar pulling an M. Night Shymalan by inserting himself as an ex-bar games champion reduced to male prostitution, Kevin Heffernan as a giant lard fine tuned for mass consumption, and Steve Lemme as a frog-masturbating scientist with a gift for unraveling the physics of beer games. Amazingly, their German beer guzzling opponents are even less fleshed out leaving only the brother’s previously whore grandmother as the only character with any degree of likeability. Instead of fluff personalities and talents whose pay-offs and jokes are telegraphed from a mile away, what these comedians really needed was some real beer on set and several hundred viewings of Animal House because not a one of them can convincingly act the part of a true uninhibited drunk. Without a believable drunk appearing anywhere in the film, Beerfest isn’t much of a fest at all.
Warner is offering Beerfest simultaneously on HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc with identical 1080p transfers from VC-1 encodes. In both versions colors and hues are a touch bright and over-contrasted but not enough to be distracting in any way. Close-up object detail is spot-on which should please the guys coming solely to check out how many boobs Broken Lizard managed to fit in. The Blu-ray Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is effective considering the style of film where balance is more important than presence. Subwoofer usage is minimal but pronounced when called upon. Extreme surround use is reserved for during the competition segments as crowd noise fills the room, yet the surrounds remain surprisingly active for most of the film.
Supplemental material leads off with a pair of Audio Commentaries. The first with director Jay Chandrasekhar and actor/writer Steme Lemme is relatively straightforward with topics ranging from drinking games to addressing critics of the film. The second with remaining Broken Lizard members actor/writers Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske is definitely goofier, highlighted by a yearning to see the beer huddle scene on a Jumbotron before a major sporting event. They’re right; the pairing is a perfect match. Next up are nearly a half hour of Deleted Scenes with alternate commentary tracks with identical pairings as the feature commentary tracks. There’s a funny “Der Lick Salt” game hidden in here deserving a spot in the final cut, but most of what’s included wouldn’t inject any much-needed humor had it not been cut.
Far less entertaining than the commentaries is a series of part serious, part spoof featurettes. Party Foul digs deep into on-set beer competitions between various cast and crew members revealing a “Quarter” accident worthy of “Jackass” fame. Frog Fluffer sees Steve Lemme visit a real scientist whose job it is to extract eggs from frogs and simultaneously proves his frog bit in the film isn’t possible, and Beer 101 offers a weak psychedelic lesson on the history of beer. None offer any must-see material or extra breasts, if that’s what you’re hoping for.
Aside from a handful of bare-breasted Europeans and a boot glass that’s the coolest lower extremity movie prop since the leg lamp in A Christmas Story, the only entertainment possibly coming from Beerfest is an excuse to down a case of beer beforehand. Only after a severely heightened blood alcohol content reading might Broken Lizard’s second flop in a row not taste like a light and watery American macro-brew packaged in a pretty high definition can.
– Dan Bradley