Jennifer Merin reviews “Beerfest”

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Beerfest is a comedy brewed by the brood of improv actors (Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske and Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed), collectively known as Broken Lizard. They attended Colgate University together, formed a NY theater company together, moved to LA and into film together, and then produced four features (Puddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread and The Dukes of Hazzard) together. Beerfest is their current froth.

The half-baked pretzel-like plot twists around two American brothers determined to claim their German ancestral heritage– an aristocratic title and ownership of the famous family brewery. The story’s salted with sophomoric, rampantly salacious humor.

When the boys visit Bavaria to scatter their recently deceased dad’s ashes, their evil and conniving cousins tell them their father was born out of wedlock, their beloved and still kicking Great Gam Gam (Cloris Leachman) had been a serving-girl-cum-whore and that the American branch of the family had stolen the brewery’s beer formula. Even worse, the cousins out-drink the brothers at Beerfest, the annual beer drinking competition held clandestinely in the family crypt which doubles as a concealed beer hall,

The brothers vow revenge– they’ll enlist a team of beer brawlers to defeat the cousins at the following year’s bout by guzzling dozens of steins of suds, bouncing balls into mugs and trick drinking from ‘das boot.’ The action flows: beer barrels are tossed, rivals come to fisticuffs, and a brigade of lovely frauleins drop their dirndles to bare their breasts. Can‘t you just imagine the hilarity of it all?

You might want to down some suds before entering the theater– this film might be a bit funnier if you’re tipsy. And, if you’re bored by the film’s soberer sections, the need to empty your full bladder is always a good excuse to excuse yourself for a scene or two. On the other hand, you’ll want to relieve yourself before Cloris Leachman jerks off (yes, she really does) a big, fat, juicy-looking wiener and calls one of the bad clan a real Deutchbag.

Other than that truly nauseating moment and pants-wetting line, Beerfest gushes with lamentably lowbrow humor– that beer dowsing, off-key yodeling, fake tits popping out all over the place kind of humor– that drives testosterone-driven, post-pubescent, pre-grad males and their female cohorts who’re seeking summer break’s last laughs before settling in for a grueling semester absolutely wild.

And, since, I’m not a member of that frat, hey, what the Hell do I know?

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).