Strange Brew Movie Review

"Eh?" might be the punch that Canadians are accused of ending each sentence with, but in the case of Strange Brew, it's also the sound of my incredulous eyebrow cocking up. I missed this one when it first came around (a probably very cold winter in 1983), but remember my fellow 4th grade classmates calling each other "hoser" and me having to bring in my hockey equipment for show and tell. I'm sure at that age I would have laughed up a storm. At 29, I'm confounded. Strange Brew is as memorable as a belch and just about that funny, yet its influence has stuck around like a 20-year hangover. Without Bob and Doug McKenzie, there would be no Wayne and Garth, no Bill and Ted, and certainly no $27 million opening for Jackass. Lorne Michaels, a quadrazillionaire thanks to this his streamlining of this brand of idiocy, would be making do with pity appearances on Hollywood Squares. Strange Brew did all of this in spite of itself. It's an astounding achievement with exactly zero forethought, a movie that shook up comedic film history by falling out of bed.

"Eh?"

It happened thanks to a five-minute sketch on Canada's SCTV called The Great White North where two biscuit-head brothers named Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) sit amongst cases of beer and argue with one another. The movie version gives them a plot where a sweet-faced beer heiress (Lynn Griffin) is about to lose the family business to her uncle (Paul Dooley) -- who killed her father and married her mother if it matters -- and the evil brewmaster (Max Von Sydow) who has concocted a serum to turn the human race into an army of serum-addicted marauding hockey players. It's up to Bob and Doug to save the day, and their hapless attempts to do so give the movie its juice.

That's pretty much it. Strange Brew can only be said to have a plot if "plot" means "window dressing for fart jokes." It can only be called a movie because someone committed it to celluloid and it's over 60 minutes long. The remainder is an episode of Great White North slathered around the place like that industrial carpet snow Chevy Chase rolled out in Christmas Vacation. Bob and Doug hurl insults like "hoser" and "take off!" at each other, drink lots, play-wrestle, and wear heavy winter coats and earmuffs indoors. A good thing is addressed as "beauty," "good day" a substitute for both "hello" and "goodbye." These apparently are all negative Canadian stereotypes. Commit them to memory and you're already imagining a richer movie then they did.

But is it funny? I suppose it could be if catch-phrases on endless playback is your thing. Or urine gags. There's some of those. And belching? Worth a giggle, eh?

Lack of laughter or reason for being might have sent me running back in 1983 when Strange Brew stumbled into theatres, but on the 2002 occasion of the DVD release, that hardly seems the point. Remember around that time most of the original, brilliant cast of Saturday Night Live had moved on. Chevy Chase was a marquee name thanks to Caddyshack and John Belushi was in the cold, cold ground. The incoming SNL class turned out to be a train wreck and future stars like Mike Myers and Dana Carvey were several years away. Wayne and Garth and Bill and Ted and Beavis and Butthead were a gleam in some madman's eye. The "dudes" comedy, as we know it now, did not exist.

Then Bob and Doug set the mold. Each of these nitwit pairs hit it big on TV through some unholy mating of cultural anachronism, lovable stupidity, and phrases that gate-crashed the language. They then tried to stretch the formula to feature length and while it usually ripped down the middle, it made everyone piles of money and turned those smart enough to parlay the good fortune into stars. That may have not happened to Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis (last both spotted a few miles outside Straight-to-Videoville) in any lasting way but the DVD lays out the initial impact of Bob and Doug McKenzie for all to see. The Great White North spawned an album, an animated series, and even got Moranis and Thomas inducted into the Order of Canada [As if that's a real thing. -Ed.]. Maybe the movie was a step too far and their kind of comedy is best swallowed in five-minute chunks followed quickly by a Labatts commericial. Maybe I'm just too late to the party and too sober to laugh. Either way, Strange Brew, incidental and faintly funny as it may be, was the start of a legacy much longer and significant than itself. That's worthy of a "Beauty, eh?" without any need for raised eyebrows.

Aka The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew.

Cast & Crew

Producer : Louis M. Silverstein


Comments

Strange Brew Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, 1983

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