SHELF LIFE: Is the Bob and Doug McKenzie comedy 'Strange Brew' past its expiration date?
What is Shelf Life? I recently moved into a new apartment, which means I had to box my entire movie collection. Now I’m trying to figure out how much of my physical media actually fits here.
Each and every title is now up for grabs, new or old, and it’s time to decide what goes on the shelf and what just plain goes.
WHAT IS IT? Beloved SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) jump to the big screen in a loose retelling of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Seriously. Add hockey, mind-control, and mice trapped in beer bottles, and you’ve got a very strange and silly movie.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: What’s crazy is that Rick Moranis somehow never made a film appearance until 1983’s Strange Brew, which he co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in. Thomas and Moranis are both terrific in this, and while it’s a shaggy film, strange and full of digressions, it is ambitious and surprisingly accomplished in many ways considering it’s a debut for both Moranis and Thomas as directors.
I was a fan of SCTV when it was on the air, and in particular, I was a fan of Bob and Doug McKenzie. When they put out an album, I was a fan. When they released their movie, I was a fan. I was onboard. I didn’t even totally get Strange Brew when it was released, and looking at it now, it feels like a totally different movie. I just thought it was this crazy weird ridiculous story about beer, with murder and ghosts and hockey and mind control, and there was no Internet to tell 13-year-old me that Elsinore Brewery was just one of the film’s many direct parallels or references to Hamlet. It’s a scattered movie, and there’s no sense of what the reality of the film is meant to be. Bob can drink an entire tanker full of beer and expand to the size of a bouncy house, their dog Hosehead can fly, and ghosts are apparently real. There’s a great weird meta-textual opening where Bob and Doug are premiering their film at a local theater, and it’s a super-cheap film they made that the audience hates. They have to sneak away, and then they immediately drive off into the rest of the actual movie. It’s a pretty strange opening move, and some of the funniest stuff in the film is from this opening segment.
Overall, I’m not sure anyone picking up Strange Brew cold right now without any prior exposure to the characters would even be able to tell what they’re looking at. I still find it entertaining, and I love Rick Moranis in the film in particular. For a first performance, there’s a lot going on pretty much any time he’s onscreen. For those who want to spice up their viewing, play the game every time Max Von Sydow appears where you try to imagine him reading the script for the movie. There are a few short extra features, including a clip from SCTV and a preview for the animated Bob and Doug show. Mainly, if you buy this one, it's for the film, and the transfer is as good as any Strange Brew transfer is every going to be.
DOES IT DESERVE A PLACE ON THE SHELF? Absolutely.
Strange Brew is available now on Blu-ray.