Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“Ahhh! Take off you hoser!”

So, like, good day and welcome to our website.

While Saturday Night Live was a huge vehicle for getting comedians in the national spotlight here in the US in the 70’s and 80’s, Canada had its own sketch comedy show that did the same thing up north. Second City Television isn’t nearly as famous down here in the States, but it was where people like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas got their starts, so yeah, the show is a little bit more than a rambling way to introduce the next movie. Two of the characters created for SCTV were Bob & Doug McKenzie, added to the show’s lineup because the network wanted “identifiably Canadian” content on the show. The result were two idiot brothers who drank beer, wore tuques all the time and said “eh” at the end of sentences a lot. This was immensely popular, leading to 1983’s The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew.

Okay, so we’ve got two brothers in Toronto who drink beer a lot, don’t have jobs but sort of have a cable access show and start the movie off by airing their disaster of a movie before an audience that hates it. Needing money (and needing to buy their dad some more beer) they put a mouse in a bottle in an effort to try and get free beer from the brewery, which happens to be going through some regime change. The old owner was murdered by his brother and the owner’s daughter is trying to assume ownership (and find out if her dad was murdered and by whom). Allied with the usurper is the brewery’s Brewmeister, who happens to also own the asylum next door and is working on a special mind control beer with which he will TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! Hockey is also involved. All of this happens in 90 minutes. Now, sharp viewers will notice that this movie has a lot of plot points, characters and names lifted right out of Hamlet. Not the mind control beer, obviously, but Shakespeare wasn’t perfect, eh?

Bob McKenzie: Rick Moranis plays the shorter, meeker brother. He’s sort of the idea man, but he also gets pushed around a lot by his brother. He does, however, have an incredible capacity to drink more beer than is humanly possible, which comes in handy. Bob McKenzie also takes a shine to the heroine of the movie, but its not reciprocated.

Doug McKenzie: Dave Thomas (the actor, not the guy who founded Wendy’s) is the dumber, more aggressive brother. He’s also something of a idiot MacGyver, able to intuitively get technology to work for him. Individually, the brothers don’t have much personality, but together the banter flows fast and furious and they play off of each other brilliantly. As far as Shakespeare analogues, they’re the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern of the movie, except main characters and not killed off by Hamlet’s douchebaggery.

Pam Elsinore: Lynne Griffin plays the heiress to the Elsinore Brewery. Obviously a Hamlet analogue, she’s a plucky, stubborn lass who wants to take over the family business like dad intended.
Jean “Rosie” LaRose: Angus McInnes plays an employee of the brewery and also a patient at the insane asylum who was a hockey star before a mental breakdown. He’s a nice guy, a little slow on the uptake, but, well, generally more competent than the McKenzies. Bob looks up to him (since he has Rosie’s rookie card). He and Pam take a liking to each other. That and the mental sickness makes him this movie’s Ophelia.

Hosehead: The McKenzie Brothers’ dog, a large, beer loving pooch that gets very, very, very protective of his beer.

Claude Elsinore: Paul Dooley plays the sniveling, weasely villain who takes over the brewery after his brother’s death. Well, yeah, obviously he did it. He’s Claudius (hell, his wife’s name is Gertrude) and a very ineffectual villain, but also gets a lot of funny lines as he blatantly tries to deflect any culpability on his part.

Brewmeister Smith: Max von Sydow plays the real villain of the movie, a doctor of psychology and the Brewmeister at Elsinore. Smith is the guy behind the guy, and von Sydow plays him up as a serious, credible mad scientist who can also crush people’s heads with his bare hands. He’s actually really badass in this movie. He also has an assistant named Ted (Brian McConnachie) who works the computers and gets the crap beaten out of himself frequently.

Dad McKenzie: The cantankerous old dad of the brothers, which wouldn’t be worth mention except for the fact that Mel FRIGGIN’ Blanc did his voice, making him sound a lot like Yosemite Sam. This is awesome.

Directed by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, the movie knows its not high art, so it really goes more for comical effects. The special effects are pretty low budget and the matte painting backgrounds are obviously so. This isn’t to say the movie isn’t visually interesting in places. The hockey game in the basement of the facility, where lunatics hopped up (zing!) on mind control beer put on odd plastic armor (black and white are the teams) and play hockey to synthesizer music. Its…odd and actually a little creepy, but also pretty cool.

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas again, which makes sense. Dialog is sharp and funny and the plot spirals wildly into the realm of the absurd. Sure, it wouldn’t be able to hold up to serious scrutiny (there’s a hell of a lot that just isn’t physically possible for a comedy that takes place in “the real world”), but here, rule of funny supersedes fixing plot holes. As far as stupid comedies go, this one’s really good with some great comedic bits (like a dog flying off to drink beer, a lawyer who physically fights off the press with kung fu, and an underwater gag that- no, I won’t spoil that one).

The original score by Charles Fox is okay but nothing particularly worthwhile or memorable. There are a lot of moments where the music gets appropriately creepy (for comical effect). The title song, “Strange Brew” that plays over the beginning credits by Ian Thomas is about as interesting as the soundtrack gets.

Strange Brew is a really funny movie and totally recommended with the caveat that it’s a willingly stupid movie that refuses to take itself seriously. I mean, it has Max von Sydow plotting to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!! with mind control beer. If the thought of that appeals to you, you’ll have a good time. If not, you’ve been warned.

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