Listed at the bottom of the poster for the upcoming film, Beerfest, is the tagline From the Comic Geniuses Who Brought You the Phenomenon “Super Troopers.” Super Troopers was a phenomenon? That’s a scary thought. If they treat beer the same way Super Troopers did the police, it’s hard to be enthusiastic for this movie’s release on August 25.
Based on the poster alone, the film seems to be aimed at the same people who enjoy beer commercials about frogs, twins, frat boys, catfights and girls in bikinis. I imagine I’m going to feel about this film the way Canadians must have felt about Bob and Doug McKenzie‘s Strange Brew.
A promotional tour for the Warner Brothers’ movie was in Portland on Sunday, the last day of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Throughout the festival, many people were talking about the film, but nobody had anything good to say about it, and I can’t say I blame them. All of the promotional material, the trailer and the bad puns seem to suggest an embarrasing — at least to those of us who think beer is worthy of respect — cinematic disaster.
This is the plot:
When American brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse travel to Germany to spread their grandfather’s ashes at Oktoberfest, they stumble upon a super-secret, centuries old, underground beer games competition – “Beerfest,” the secret Olympics of beer drinking. The brothers receive a less than warm welcome from their German cousins, the Von Wolfhausens, who humiliate Todd and Jan, slander their relatives, and finally cast them out of the event. Vowing to return in a year to defend their country and their family’s honor, The Wolfhouse boys assemble a ragtag dream team of beer drinkers and gamers: Barry Badrinath, the consummate skills player with a dark past; Phil Krundle (AKA Landfill), a one-man chugging machine; and Steve “Fink” Finklestein, the lab tech with a PhD in All Things Beer. This Magnificent Five train relentlessly, using their hearts, minds and livers to drink faster, smarter and harder than they ever have before. But first they must battle their own demons… as well as a bunch of big, blond, German jerks who want to destroy the team before they can even make it back to Munich. Revenge, like beer, is best served cold.
I generally disdain criticism of movies by people who haven’t seen a movie, but here I am doing it myself. That’s because everything I’ve seen so far about this comedy makes it appear that it can only further damage the image of beer in America. There’s some support for that in the write-up at the website Worst Previews. At the end of the trailer itself there is a mock disclaimer saying “no Germans were harmed” and that you should “treat all women with respect.” If you have to tell people to treat women respectfully, that probably signals that the film will do just the opposite, and the trailer does seem to bear that out. Unlike Oregon’s Brewers Summer Games where industry professionals compete in events that have some relation to their jobs, the Beerfest ones appear to be nothing more than juvenile drinking games. These are the sort of games played on college campuses and high school parties with the only goal being to get drunk, and often as fast as possible. I’m sure plenty of people will find that hilarious, because many people seem to enjoy comedies that drag them down to the below slapstick level that appeals to five-year olds and the blissfully uneducated teens and early twenty-somethings. I realize I’m sounding like that old curmudgeon whining about “these kids today,” but I do enjoy the ocassional low-brow teen comedy, especially ones that are smart and witty.
I think what bothers me about everything I know about this film so far is that it appears to be a two-hour beer commercial with all the worst elements that have skewed people’s perceptions of what beer is over the last several decades. Glorifying over consumption, pandering to male sexual urges, misinformation such as the “ice cold” idea or that low-calorie beer has any additional health benefits. The official website even has flying frogs holding a banner.
I realize people can be entertained by all manner of things, and certainly have the right to laugh at whatever they want. I’m sure Warner Brothers knows its audience. They’ve been doing this successfully for a long time now. But I just can’t abide the idea that beer will once again be dragged through the mud in the name of entertainment. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to lift up beer and get it the respect I believe it so richly deserves. A film like this has the potential to undo so much of what so many of us have been trying to do for good beer that I just want to sit down and cry.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I take these things too seriously. Maybe I’m a lone nut shouting at the wind. Maybe this is what America wants, is yearning for. After all, my finger is so rarely on the pulse of America’s tastes. But to me this just has disaster for the beer industry written all over it.
If you want to see the trailer for yourself, here it is in a variety of formats and sizes:
Windows Media Player: