We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Broken Lizard is a filmmaking collective with its reputation on the line. Fans of the group’s surprise 2001 hit, Super Troopers, have since been subjected to a disastrous follow-up (2004 slasher sendup Club Dread), rentals of its equally painful debut (1996 romantic comedy Puddle Cruiser), and director Jay Chandrasekhar’s flopped film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard—all of which raise the question, Are these guys the real deal or one-hit wonders? Broken Lizard’s latest, Beerfest, ambiguously answers that question with a slurring “yesssh.” While in Germany to scatter their departed grandfather’s ashes, brothers Jan (Paul Soter) and Todd Wolfhouse (Erik Stolhanske) inadvertently stumble upon an über-secret beer-games competition—presided over by their grandfather’s nefarious half-brother, Wolfgang von Wolfhaus (Jürgen Prochnow)—where they promptly embarrass themselves, their family, and their country in front of the international beer-guzzling community. Vowing to regain the Wolfhouse family honor, Jan and Todd assemble a team—comprising loudmouthed porker Landfill (Kevin Heffernan), Jewish science whiz Fink (Steve Lemme), and former-beer-games-champ-turned-male-prostitute Barry (Chandrasekhar)—that trains for an entire year, then returns to Germany to kick some stereotype-ridden German ass. There’s not much in the way of plot, but exposition has never been Broken Lizard’s strong suit: Subplots involving the Wolfhouse/von Wolfhaus family history and a stolen recipe for the world’s greatest beer occasionally bog down the proceedings, as do the film’s obligatory training montages. For the most part, however, Chandrasekhar’s grasp on frat-house humor is as tight as ever, and the director wisely keeps the film moving from one drunken-antics-laden scene to the next with a hit-to-miss ratio that—though not on par with Super Troopers’—far exceeds Club Dread’s. Credit much of that comedic success to Beerfest’s supporting cast—including Jan and Todd’s sausage-handjobbing whore of a great-grandmother (Cloris Leachman) and the effeminate-yet-threatening German drinking team—which assumes a significant amount of screen time during the film’s 110 minutes. Yet, the result is a picture that neither redeems nor condemns the creative braintrust behind it: On its own, Beerfest is an entertaining—if predictable—niche-sport comedy with enough brew-chugging, breast-revealing, and international-culture-lampooning to keep its intended audience laughing, sober or not. As Broken Lizard’s saving grace, however, it’s a bit skunked.—Matthew Borlik