Judging by its first three films—Super Troopers, Club Dread, and the frequently hilarious new Beerfest—the comedy troupe Broken Lizard seems committed to the modest but essential goal of providing entertainment to get loaded by. Broken Lizard's work lacks the discipline of good farce—some scenes sag from runaway improvisation sessions, while others stop the narrative in its tracks—but given the unusually casual relationship that many viewers have with the group's films, that isn't a great weakness. Whether seen between bong hits or through the blurry translucence of a beer glass, Broken Lizard movies reward short attention spans with an agreeably rowdy tone, plenty of choice one-liners, and lowbrow gags that are smarter and more off-center than expected. With Dazed And Confused and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle enjoying a hammerlock on the marijuana crowd, Broken Lizard turns its attentions to good old-fashioned suds-sucking in Beerfest, which is a little like Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music In The World for frat guys.
The nonsensical shaggy-dog plot begins when American brothers Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter carry out the dying request of their German grandfather, who wished to have his ashes laid to rest during Oktoberfest. Once in Bavaria, the men stumble upon the underground international drinking competition Beerfest, which is dominated by a German team whose leader (an inspired Jürgen Prochnow) has a grudge against their grandfather. After getting humiliated by the Germans, who accuse their grandfather of stealing a beer recipe and their mother (Cloris Leachman) of being a whore, Stolhanske and Soter vow to avenge their loss. To that end, they recruit a few drinking buddies: Kevin Heffernan, a guzzler with disturbing appetites; Jay Chandrasekhar, a beer-pong and quarters wizard who has fallen on hard times; and Steve Lemme, a scientist who spends much of his day whacking off toads.
Beerfest gets off to a shaky start and sputters to a conclusion at least half an hour later than it should, but it's got a creamy middle—it takes off once the gang reunites and begins a yearlong training session. Of course, "training" involves our heroes teaching themselves how to drink beer more efficiently and in greater quantities, employing tried-and-true German techniques like gulping down jars of ram piss. (The logic runs that anything goes down smoother than ram piss.) Random silliness rules the day, but the gags are frequently surprising, from a morning-after shot of a boozer waking up next to a ravaged deer ("Not again!" he screams with a bloody mouth) to the bizarre sight of Prochnow and Mo'Nique French-kissing. No doubt it's even funnier when you're wasted.