Strange Brew

Strange Brew. Metro Goldwyn-Meyer 1983.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t think I’ve seen any of Second City. As far as I know, SCTV never aired in either area I’ve lived in. I’ve only heard of Bob and Doug McKenzie through one or two audio tracks on Doctor Demento albums. I was surprised to find out that the not-Rick Moranis McKenzie brother is played by Dave Thomas (no, not the Wendy’s guy), whom I’ve seen on The Red Green Show. He looks more like Andy Richter in this picture.

I’m hoping this will be pretty light comedy, apparently with parallels to Hamlet, so there’s some intelligence to it. I’ll probably get back to my usual array of genres next week.

After watching the movie:

Twenty-something slackers Bob and Doug McKenzie are so Canadian they pronounce all their periods as “eh.” They don’t care about much other than beer, and when they have to get more to replace what they took from their father when broke, they go to the Elsinore brewery to try to scam free beer on the claim that they found a mouse in a bottle. They find Elsinore in the middle of a business/family politics dispute. John Elsinore recently died, his widow married his brother almost immediately after, and the brother is trying to get John’s daughter Pam to sell him the company she inherited. The mouse scam doesn’t get the McKenzies beer, but it does get them jobs as bottle inspectors, which allows them all the beer they want. But something is rotten in the state of the brewery, and it all has to do with the plans of Brewmaster Smith. The brothers aren’t quite stupid enough to stumble upon it themselves, but they and Pam have help from beyond to learn the truth.

Bob and Doug seem to be like Second City’s version of Wayne and Garth of SNL’s Wayne’s World, plus Canadian stereotypes. Beyond beer and Canadian accents that Canadians don’t have, there doesn’t seem to be much point to them. They seem to have even less substance to them than Wayne and Garth, so their movie had to have Hamlet grafted onto it. Which is fine. I wish I was more familiar with Hamlet, as I’m sure I’ve missed some of the subtler parallels. I can point to at least one scene where Bob and Doug are almost certainly supposed to be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, so I wonder how this compares to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play I have even less familiarity with.

The comedy style is inconsistently cartoonish. Early on, it seems mostly straightforward, but by act three, their dog sprouts a cape and flies in order to get to Oktoberfest. Also as the story goes along, John Elsinore’s ghost takes more and more action. Hamlet’s father may have been a slight deus ex machina to get the story moving, but John starts out just influencing technology and ends up giving the characters vast amounts of information during crunch time, and when he can’t do it through technology, he manifests in human form and throws literal writing on the wall.

Although the story and characters may be a little weak, and the jokes rarely had me laughing out loud (I think I came up with a funnier end than they did), it was an enjoyable film, and I’m glad to have seen it. I imagine it’s completely unlike the Bob and Doug sketches from Second City TV, but I don’t know how much, since I’ve never seen one. I really ought to watch some SCTV.


Watch this movie: with a two-four and a buddy.

Don’t watch this movie: as a statement on life in Canada?

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