Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When Jan and Todd's grandfather dies, their loving grandmother requests that they take his ashes to Germany to scatter them during Oktoberfest as part of a family tradition. Tempted by the thought of enjoying a few beers in the festival atmosphere, they eagerly agree, but things don't exactly go to plan. Stumbling upon a Fight Club style secret society devoted to drinking games, they are humiliated by their disdainful German cousins. Family honour is at stake, and they vow to return the following year with a team of their own, to win the Beerfest competition.

A feelgood comedy sports movie which calls on the viewer to support Americans doing something they're notoriously bad at might not sound like the best bet for a night's entertainment, but Beerfest acquits itself surprisingly well. Packed with cheerful slapstick and endless nationality-based humour (which it gets away with by virtue of even-handedness) it features performances of such gentle amiability that it's hard not to like.

Copy picture

We're not supposed to take things too seriously - the odd murder is casually swept aside as the story marches on - but there's also plenty of intelligent humour in there too, particularly for those who know the actors' histories, and there's some truly obscene yet subtle use of gay slang which has artfully slipped past the censor. The pacing is well handled especially during the drinking games themselves, though it's hard for the film to sustain an intense party atmosphere throughout. It will doubtless be at its best when shown in the background at a party, as with the Cheech and Chong movies it makes reference to.

If there's one major problem with Beerfest, it's that it doesn't really know its stuff when it comes to drinking, and neither are the actors up to it. As a veteran of drinking contests myself, I was disappointed to see men who are supposed to be among the best in the world routinely taking more than 10 seconds to drain their glasses, and the suggestion that there's a great secret about how to drain a glass boot is ridiculous. This is a real shame, as it will let down the film's target audience, who are otherwise well provided for.

Non-drinkers will probably also find it funny, though mostly in the same way that they can be amused by watching drunken friends. Beerfest's other weakness is in its two leads, who, whilst affable and sympathetic, don't really have enough charisma to carry it. Fortunately, this is compensated for by the supporting cast, especially Jay Chandrasekhar as a desperate hustler and Cloris Leachman as the lovely old lady with a secret. The film also gets major points for international appeal, understanding just how unpopular Americans can find themselves abroad and explaining this without malice. Ultimately it is, of course, a very silly film, but if you let yourself surrender to its charms you won't regret it in the morning.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
Share this with others on...
Beerfest packshot
Two naive Americans encounter a secret German beer-drinking society and must start training in order to defend their honour.
Amazon link

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Writer: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan

Starring: Paul Soter, Eric Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Jay Chandrasekhar, Jurgen Prochnow, Cloris Leachman

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Cheech And Chong's Nice Dreams