Thursday 14 June 2018

Strange Brew (1983)

Finally kind of understand this spinoff of Canada's SCTV. It's kind of cartoonish, but then the dad is voiced by Mel Blanc. Canadian hosers seemed quite similar to a lot of Irish folk. There's something innocent about Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as Doug and Bob McKenzie. The Elsinore mattes are gorgeous. I seem to latch onto comedies with a sense of visual ambition, and this seems to make up for the cold Canadian atmosphere. Regular UK Rentayank Angus MacInnes plays a brewery guard whom the boys recognise as Jean "Rosie" LaRose, a Quebecois hockey star they admire to the extent  of keeping his trading card in Bob's pocket (there are lots of similarities between hockey culture and GAA culture). The scenes with Max Von Sydow in shadow bossing a computer technician seem to mirror Flash Gordon. Lynne Griffin is appealing as the Hamlet manque, in a role that isn't in a cold, unfriendly slasher (the backbone of Canadian pop cinema). Von Sydow's Swedish-Canadian accent seems exaggerated to almost Swedish Chef levels. A celebrity paradox occurs when Star Wars nut Doug makes a ref to Darth Vader, while in black hockey gear, in front of MacInnes, who of course played an X-Wing pilot. The Canadian eejitry is a bit wearing after a while. Moranis can be a bit too eager. But every time it seems not to work, it knows that it needs to move on, and it does. So you get the McKenzies returning home and meeting their skunk-striped dog Hosehead, that sees them literally are two lumps of raw meat, we get a brief scene of their parents in bed (Blanc dubbing Thomas), and the boys listening to screaming on an LP ("it's a British new wave band!").  There is lots of fourth wall breaking, "ever noticed that people don't look at the road when driving in movies, eh?", or words to that effect. And the intermission - after which, the film seems to take great relish in parodying the overwrought thrillers the Canadian film industry tried to mainstream itself with, with a hefty underwater rescue scene immediately sledgehammered by our heroes feeding "Rosie" some beer in the waterlogged van. It's also visually innvoative - i.e. using the frame of a mugshot to frame a scene. And some lines. "Wanna smoke?" "No, we want our lungs pink when they fry us." It's a bit overlong, but the climax is extraordinary. The inflated Moranis trapped in a tank is a deliriously silly sight. As is the idea of the dog being able to read a road map and then turn into a low-budget Krypto knockoff - flying off to the local Oktoberfest (though a Shmenges cameo would have improved things and also tied things into SCTV) to slurp up enough of the rogue Elsinore beer... Nice effects, eh....
And yes, it's an adaptation of Hamlet.
Sadly, 1984's Going Berserk (1984), with SCTV-ers John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy was shite, but the TV special The Shmenges - The Last Polka in 1985 made up for that. But this, though not perfect, is a gem. Yes, a comedy that made me laugh.

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