Comedy is probably the oddest element known to humankind. What makes one person laugh until tears stream forth can make another person hurl in the theater aisle. It's all a matter of personal tastes and a little perspective, and there are not two more disparate comedies than the ones I saw this Labor Day weekend. So let's start off with Beerfest, the latest and arguably greatest from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. This is the group who came up with perennial college dorm room favorite Super Troopers and the less well received, but infinitely superior, slasher comedy Club Dredd.
Beerfest opens at the funeral of the head of the Von Wolfhausens. Two of the Broken Lizard guys normally relegated to background status are front and center as the two grandsons who must take their grandfather's ashes to Germany and spread them at the famliy resting place. Once they arrive in Deutschland, they run into Oktoberfest in full swing and the riot which ensues is one long sustained belly laugh. The scene just builds and builds and I was on the floor laughing. They were sent to meet a certain man and when he picks them up he takes them to an underground beer drinking ceremony called Beerfest and all hell breaks loose. It turns out their grandfather stole a beer recipe, and fled to America as an exhile. The guys are beaten down and shipped back to the States in humilation.
Once back on American soil they decide to form a squad to return as conquerors to the next year's Beerfest. That's also all you need to know about the movie other than Broken Lizard goes out of its way to pull laughter from you. A lot of it is pretty dang gross, bordering on nasty, but I laughed more times than not and it's hard to argue with that. By contrast, My Fair Lady didn't seem to find it half as funny as I did. But I freely admit to being a sucker for Americans shamelessly mocking bad German accents and everytime the German team started speaking I started laughing.
Speaking of which, the Germans are led by none other than Jurgen Prochnow who proves to be as fearless at comedy as he is at drama. There's one long running gag referencing his most famous film, but the thing that got me was another joke aimed at that same film which Prochnow sort of tosses off as an aside. I just howled when he said it.
Kevin Heffernan, though, has consistently proven himself the MVP of the troupe as the go-to guy who can get it done. Here he plays Landfill, a compulsive eater and all around screw-up who sees this tournament as his shot at redemption. The places he takes the character are priceless and I was laughing pretty much every time he was on screen. Cloris Leachman though was hit-or-miss as Great Gam Gam, the great-grandmother who lords over the main family. She's in full on Young Frankenstein over-the-top mode and while some of what she says is funny, a lot more just isn't.
But overall the hit-to-miss quotient immensely favors the hits so if you're looking for pure, unadulterated, albeit very strange, comedy then Beerfest is a pretty solid flick.