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Beerfest

(2006) ** 1/2 R
110 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Jay Chandrasekhar. Cast: Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar.

The cacophonous frat fantasy Beerfest certainly isn't going to be everyone's pitcher of beer. Comedy troupe Broken Lizard—best known for Super Troopers—wrote and stars in Beerfest, which includes the usual R-rated comedy elements: gratuitous breasts, amusing profanity, and general irresponsibility.

"Beerfest" refers to the super-secret, extreme version of Oktoberfest where beer-chugging competitions demonstrate supremacy and pride. After a dispiriting defeat, beer-family brothers Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Broken Lizards Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) seek out their college drinking buddies, train for eleven months, and return to compete again. That's pretty much the long and short of it, but the troupe uses the basic construction of a sports movie as an excuse for jokes that emphasize the gross, bizarre, and embarrassing.

The gathering of the Broken Lizard gang evokes the Blues Brothers getting the band back together. Kevin Heffernan plays Phil "Landfill" Krundle, a life-lusty friend-to-all, Steve Lemme is Steve "Fink" Finklestein, a research scientist in the field of cloning, and director Jay Chandrasekhar appears as Barry Badrinath, a down-and-out drunken manwhore who must get his drinking-game groove back. Guest star J├╝rgen Prochnow chews the scenery as the Wolfhouse's rival.

Beerfest knows it's a dumb movie and plugs ahead cheerily and without pretention. A late-breaking reversal of a plot reversal spoofs the film's own shamelessness for audience approval. Broken Lizard has always been closer to the lowbrow National Lampoon school than the headier, more verbally gymnastic Monty Python and Kids in the Hall. These guys are at their best when they touch the absurd: a yodelled password to gain entry to Beerfest or the odd detail of a family-heirloom doll named Popo.

Mostly,though, one should expect silly German names, frog masturbation, a beer-goggles disaster, and the systematic hazing of ever-game Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman, who explains to her great grandchildren, "I sleep better with a little sausage in me" (another respected elder actor and a music star both appear uncredited). Then there's the drinking, which isn't inherently funny. The committed approach to drinking games (and the notion of underground versions previously unknown to man) can be amusing, but the jokes quickly run thin.

Beerfest may not be better than previous ode to hops Strange Brew, but it isn't really much worse. The opening credits warn, "If you drink this much—YOU WILL DIE," but heavy consumption is nevertheless recommended before you take in Beerfest.

[For Groucho's interview with Broken Lizard's Steve Lemme and Erik Stolhanske, click here.]

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