Professional film critics should never walk into a movie already knowing whether or not they’re going to like it. (But they do). Many professional critics will even state that they abstain from forming the simplest opinion about a film until they’ve seen it. (But they’re lying). Professional critics will claim it’s about integrity and ethics. (But they forget that it’s also human nature). And right now you’re wondering why the hell I’ve mentioned ‘professional critics’ three times when I so clearly am not one. (Fuck you). I may not be paid in the traditional sense here at FSR, but I do get free DVDs, movie screenings, and film festival passes. (I also received a bonus once in the form of a happy ending from one of FSR’s columnists. You know who you are…) But I still like to think I can act just as professional as the folks that are remunerated in actual duckets.
Which brings me to the new movie I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. If you’ve seen the film’s trailer or read any of Tucker Max’s frat-boy circle-jerk bullshit then you already know this movie is going to suck. His shtick is simple… he’s a self-described asshole who says and does whatever he wants whenever he wants with no concern for the fallout. He insults, belittles, and verbally abuses people, usually women, and then brags about it to his friends. He also has crazy sexual escapades the likes of which no mere mortal man will ever experience. The real-life Max claims these shenanigans are true and has made a successful transition from supposed Duke law student to blogger, author, and now screenwriter, but the film just follows Max’s zany adventures over the course of a week in his zany, sex-romp of a life. The man (and the character) presents himself as a complete and utter prick who appeals strictly to the college dick crowd (he advertises on bottles of Rohypnol for good reason), I knew it was going to be utter crap before I sat down to watch it.
Except it wasn’t.
By the end of the movie I had a smile on my face, and I’m professional enough to admit that I was wrong.
The film opens with police responding to a call about a woman screaming and an animal sounding like it’s in pain. When they arrive on scene they find Max (Matt Czuchry) having sex with a deaf woman. See, she’s loud during sex and sounds like an animal because she’s deaf. Hilarious! We’re soon introduced to Max’s two best friends. Drew (Jesse Bradford) recently found his girlfriend going down on a rapper’s flesh-tone microphone and is now in a funk of hating all the bitches women in the world. Dan (Geoff Stults) is engaged to his loving and mistrustful girlfriend and due to be married the following week. With hopes of being compared favorably to this summer’s surprise hit The Hangover, the trio heads out of town for some bachelor party celebrating that spins wildly and hilariously out of control! (Their hopes are dashed though when only a handful of jokes in the entire movie manage to find the funny). Along the way Max goes looking for a midget to screw, Dan ends up pissing off (and on) some cops, and Drew finds a worthy female opponent in a videogame-playing stripper with a heart of gold.
Now just because I said it wasn’t crap doesn’t mean it’s gold… the first thirty minutes of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell is exactly what I expected. The jokes are crass, lame, and completely flat. (“Wait, you’re telling me Magic Johnson is black and HIV positive and still has it better than me?” Really? That line was barely funny fifteen years ago). Bradford’s delivery is equally flat and his monotone voice grates. Dan’s relationship with his fiance is bland and predictable in that she doesn’t trust Max and Dan shouldn’t either and blah blah blah. And Max is just a total tool… he announces in class that he banged a deaf girl, he talks about working his through the disabled so he can achieve “a Helen Keller,” and he shows zero regard for anyone’s feelings, rules, or concerns.
But once the trio arrives in Salem and settle in to the strip club things start to get a bit better. The quality of jokes increases all around but most notably in Drew’s flame war with the smart and sassy stripper. That relationship in fact is pretty much the film’s saving grace. Like I said, the dialogue overall picks up and lands a few truly funny lines (“I’m gonna hit it so hard whoever pulls me out of you is gonna become King of England”), but Drew’s storyline is the first and only one to become interesting. The relationship is just as believable as the rest of the movie (as in not at all), but it has enough heart to make its lack of originality and veracity forgivable. You won’t shed a tear over any of it, but it’s enough to draw you in ever so slightly.
That’s enough to save the movie from being a complete disaster, but it still only brings the film to the level of average. Too much of the movie just looks cheap (especially when it comes to the lighting) and the wrap-up is predictable and more than a little forced. Then there’s the inexplicable and poorly-written scene about Drew’s obsession with the pancakewich (think McGriddles). It goes on too long, cost about half as much to produce as that delicious McDonalds breakfast treat, and is just dead air comedy-wise. And maybe this is just me, but someone really needed to beat the shit out of Max… his “friends” have at least three opportunities where they really should have knocked the punk out, but nobody even clips the bastard. Lame.
So where does that leave the movie? Fans of Tucker Max’s book and blog will probably eat this up like it was a buffet of unconscious sorority sisters. But the average movie-goer? If you enjoy low-brow humor, boobs, a fecal scene to rival the one in Trainspotting, and cameos by Traci Lords then I can wholeheartedly recommend you add this one to your Netflix queue. And while that may not seem like a strong and positive recommendation, trust me when I say it’s better than what I expected.
The Upside: Better than expected (with the understanding I expected nothing but shit); Drew actually grows as a character and grows on the viewer in the process; some of the dialogue/jokes/insults are pretty funny.
The Downside: Takes a long thirty minutes to really get going; parts of the film look extremely cheap; pretending it’s based on true events doesn’t make it true; tries very hard to offend, but never really does… unless maybe if you’re a thin-skinned, big-boned, HIV-positive midget with an eating disorder.
On the Side: Tucker Max is still a dick.