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HTF Review: Beerfest Unrated HD-DVD


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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   JustinCleveland

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Posted February 12 2007 - 01:00 AM


Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2006
Rated: Unrated
Film Length: 116 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Digital Plus English and French 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

The first fifteen minutes of Broken Lizard’s “Super Troopers” is one of the funniest bits to come out of modern cinema, and the slapstick style the comedy troop employed through the bulk of that film makes it one of the best comedies of this century. The group’s sophomore studio effort, “Club Dread” failed to meet the high standards set by the first film, though had its own charms. “Beerfest” suffers many of the same problems as Dread, resulting in a movie that has some excellent, if low-brow, moments but fails to capture the same magic as its predecessors.

One of the problems with the film, I think, is the complex story. “Super Troopers” was remarkable for its simplicity; “Beerfest” is a convoluted mess that runs entirely too long, wearing out the audience. Thematically the film reflects a traditional sports story, in that the protagonists first discover a sport, recruit and train a team, and triumph over adversity. Throw in a few personal struggles and adversity to overcome and you have a stock story that can be used for comedy, drama, tragedy, etcetera. In this case the story overshadows the gags, which are few and far between.

The movie begins by following two brothers, Jan and Todd Wolfhouse (Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske) and their trek through their ancestral past following the death of their grandfather. While paying homage the two stumble across the secret, back-room Fight Club-esque Olympics of drinking games where they are embarrassed by a group of German contestants after making a mockery of the proceedings. Determined to redeem their family honor and the alcoholic reputation of their entire nation, the brothers approach their old collegiate drinking buddies to form a team to take on the world.

The entire Broken Lizard crew returns for this film, playing very different roles and proving their skills as actors. Director Jay Chandrasekhar plays the ace Barry, a once-great drinker who is best when he is drunk. Kevin Heffernan is Landfill, the only member of the group to find a fulfilled life and is reluctant to join and spend time away from his beautiful bride. Steve Lemme’s “Fink” manually masturbates frogs. Enough said.

The problem with the ensemble cast is the attempt to balance a wide-variety of subplots; each character is well-developed, but the result is a movie that takes a while to get to the titular beer-fest. Add in a subplot about an ancient beer recipe and a horny grandmother (Cloris Leachman) and you’ve got a lot to handle in a near two-hour movie. There are some wonderful bits, but even more times my mind started to wander because my patience was taxed.

There are more than a few great comedic moments in this film and fans of the Broken Lizard troop will find a lot to like herein. A few judicious edits would have streamlined this film and made it work a lot better. As is it is a funny, if long, look at drinking games for adults.

Video:
The original DVD presentation of the unrated DVD looked excellent, and this HD-DVD presentation is exponentially better. That is not, however, to say it is perfect. While the fine details look sweet, the transfer does look oversaturated and the darker scenes suffer from a lack of detail. Shot in 2.35:1, the transfer accurately reflects the original theatrical presentation.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sounds very good. The lossless track sounds pristine with great bass response. The surround channels get little play, however the majority of the movie comes from the main and center speakers and they sound great. Nary a hiss or distortion to be heard.

Extras:
This HD-DVD set is stacked as well as the unrated DVD edition released a few months prior. The crown jewels are a pair of commentaries by the Broken Lizard crew. The first features Steve Lemme and Jay Chandrasekhar. The two are relatively relaxed during their commentary, pointing out things about editing and story choices. Heffernan, Soter, and Stolhanske are on the second, which is far more anecdotal and chatty. There is a good amount of dead air during the former, which is remedied by the later. Both commentaries are very interesting with a surprisingly-little amount of repetition.

There are nearly thirty minutes of deleted scenes including a completely-different open and some deleted subplots including a nekkid Swedish drinker. Most of the deletions are done for a reason. Like the feature, they include commentary from the Lizards.

There are a couple of brief featurettes that shows another side of the Lizards. The first talks about egregious party fouls committed by the members of the troop during filming and back in their college days. Another explores the real-life exploits of a Frog Fluffer. Interesting. The final section is an animated history of beer which, according to my limited knowledge, is fairly accurate.

Overall:
“Beerfest” is, sadly, not Broken Lizard’s best work. It is, however, their second-best offering after “Super Troopers.” If you are jonesing for a fix of stupid comedy mixed with sporting themes and a lot of alcohol-induced humor, you will find satisfaction herein. The HD-DVD quality is excellent, and worth your entertainment dollar.

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted February 12 2007 - 05:24 AM

Nice review. Just wondering how you feel "Beerfest" stands up to "Club Dread" - Better/Worse?
I agree with you, the first few minutes of Super Troopers is comedic gold!
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