With the mildly disappointing “Club Dread” out of the way, the infectiously vulgar comedy troupe Broken Lizard is back in form with “Beerfest,” a jaunty lark about a beer-drinking championship and the lovable losers who want to win it.
Broken Lizard first appeared on the scene with “Super Troopers,” of course, and while “Beerfest” doesn’t quite match that film’s level of juvenile giddiness — it’s much too long, for one thing, and too plot-heavy — it does earn quite a few laughs. If Will Ferrell were an R-rated comedian, he would make movies like this. It has his style of absurdity and wordplay.
We have the Wolfhouse brothers, Todd (Erik Stolhanske) and Jan (Paul Soter), who help their great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman) run a German restaurant called Schnitzengiggle. When their grandfather dies, the boys are sent back to Germany to deposit his ashes, and there they discover Beerfest, a sort of underground Oktoberfest for SERIOUS beer drinkers. Teams are assembled from all over the world, facing off Olympics-style in drinking games, but America, a nation of pansies and wusses, is not represented. The boys are embarrassed and sent packing.
They are also accused of being the descendants of a thief — their grandfather supposedly stole the the world’s greatest beer recipe — but that angle of the plot only gets in the way.
The point is, once they’re back in America, they assemble a team and spend the next 12 months training for the following year’s Beerfest, to show those German jerks once and for all. Jan and Todd call on three old friends to fill out their squad: Landfill (Kevin Heffernan), a laid-off brewery employee who now wins hot dog eating contests; Fink (Steve Lemme), a brainy scientist who can help the team with strategies; and Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar), who has fallen on hard times and become a gay prostitute.
The five leads are the members of Broken Lizard, and they wrote the film as a group, with Chandrasekhar directing. (He was responsible for last year’s “Dukes of Hazzard” movie, too.) It’s agreeably juvenile, with random comic nudity, non-sequitur dialogue and lots and lots of beer-drinking. Broken Lizard isn’t quite the second coming of Monty Python, but the group is nearly as cohesive as those British lads were, playing off each other with impeccable timing and skill.
It’s also nice to see Cloris Leachman involved, behaving filthily yet with a modicum of dignity. The boys’ great-grandmother is a strong character, and Leachman was the perfect choice to play her. She’s willing to be as raunchy as the script requires, but able to make the character seem grounded in reality, too.
The film wisely eschews romantic subplots for anyone, focusing mainly on the no-girls-allowed shenanigans. Drunkenness, binge drinking and German-hating have never seemed so appealing.
B (1 hr., 50 min.; )