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March 12, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Beerfest: The Movie

Undoubtedly the greatest drinking film of all time is Withnail and I, where Richard E Grant and Paul McGann spout philosophy and prose while under the influence of alcohol (ranging from the “finest wines known to humanity” to lighter fluid) and other illicit substances (including the legendary “Camberwell Carrot”). For some reason, about the only substance they don’t touch is beer.

Through this gap comes the 2006 release Beerfest, which makes a determined bid for the best feel-good underdog beer film of the century. I must have missed the cinema release – which is odd because I think I would have noticed – but the DVD was first poured on February 14. Surely no film released on Valentine’s Day has ever had a tagline like “Prepare for the ultimate chug of war!”

The story (such as it is) revolves around Jan and Todd Wolfhouse, two dim but likeable Americans from a German family. When their grandfather dies, they agree to scatter his ashes at Oktoberfest.

Things go wrong when they accidentally bring down the entire Spaten beer tent after riling up some unconvincing Australian sailors with a bad drinking song. While fleeing the enormous (and sometimes half-dressed) carnage, they stumble on Beerfest – the secret underground Olympics of drinking games.

A meeting with their German cousins ends poorly when a dark family secret is discovered and Jan and Todd are thrashed in the drinking games. The brothers vow to assemble a dream team for revenge and family honour.

They recruit Landfill, a competitive eater and drinker, Fink, a science geek with a thing for toads, and Barry, the ultimate beer gamer with the same “drunken master” vibe seen in Stickmen.

Much of the film chronicles the punishing training regime as the Americans try to learn how to drink properly. In a scene which makes you laugh and squirm, Barry’s dance floor seduction is shown from both his perspective and what actually happens. Let’s just say that everything looks a little different in the cold, hard, light of day…

Of course, in a film which is basically Rocky IV with lager, the team hits rock bottom when one of the main characters is killed during possibly the heaviest inter-gender fistfight in cinematic history.

This untimely death is resolved in such a manner that the writers of the Young and The Restless would consider it lazy and hackneyed. The deceased’s previously unknown identical twin brother replaces him in the team. You can only tell it’s his identical twin brother because he wears a cowboy hat.

Now fully trained, the team returns to Beerfest thanks to the theory of drunken recall (E=MC hammered) and gets past the guards using an ancient method adapted from Troy. The battle for redemption by beer begins.

There is a lot of drinking in this film, plenty of cursing and occasional (artistically valid) nudity. I loved it. It made me laugh like a fool and there are plenty of lines I’ll be using on my drinking buddies for years. That is all you can really ask of a beer film.

JAY CHANBRASEKHAR

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