Tuesday, August 30, 1983STRANGE BREW: THE ADVENTURES OF BOB AND DOUG McKENZIE. Co-written by Steven De Jarnatt. Based on characters created for the television show SCTV (CBC, 1980-83). Music by Charles Fox. Co-written and directed by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Running time: 90 minutes. B.C. Classifier's warning: occasional swearing and suggestive scenes. Mature entertainment.
IT HAS TO DO with your drug of choice.
Beer drinkers are going to find Strange Brew: The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie a lot funnier than any of the Cheech and Chong movies.
C. and C., of course, have enjoyed remarkable success playing to the pot generation. Their comic personas are inner city and alienated, a pair of merry mary-janeites who flout authority by smoking illegal substances.
The McKenzie brothers, by contrast, represent the traditional backwoods values of central Canada. Family-oriented, they're hooked on back bacon and beer, the well-taxed intoxicant controlled and distributed by the government itself.
The surprise is how similar the two teams really are in their essential approach to comedy. Both offer sharply observed variations on standard hick humour. Instead of rural innocence, though, they provide us with worldviews altered by miracles of modern chemistry.
Befitting their drug of choice, Richard "Cheech" Marin and his Edmonton-born partner Thomas Chong first gained prominence as recording artists. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas created Bob and Doug as two minutes of Canadian content for the SCTV comedy show.
The question was, could the McKenzies' hoser humour style sustain a feature-length motion picture? The answer is a qualified yes. In a year that has provided no outstanding comedy so far, their Strange Brew is as good as its competition.
The plotline features the none-too-bright McKenzies attempting to con a free case of beer out of the Elsinore Brewery. In the process, they become involved in a family feud and mad scientist Max Von Sydow's attempt to take over the world using a drug-laced lager.
As satirists, the Moranis-Thomas team are able to go C. and C. one better. Because their amiable alkies are based in The Great White North, their comedy includes an absurdist vision of Canada (a nation that the National Lampoon magazine once called "the Retarded Giant on [America's] doorstep").
Filmed in Toronto, this American-financed production makes the Ontario metropolis look like the world's biggest small town. Even so, there is sly sophistication in the way the screenplay incorporates the plot of Hamlet without any of of the wink, wink, nudge, nudge obviousness that less clever comedies use to display their wit.
A high level of comic invention combined with a welcome freshness gives Strange Brew a pleasing and distinctive flavour. Bob and Doug fans can expect a cheery, beery evening's entertainment.
The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1983. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
AFTERWORD: Though most of Strange Brew was filmed in Toronto, the actual factory footage was shot in the Old Fort Brewing plant in Prince George, B.C. Sadly for the brothers, Bob and Doug brought their quest for better beer to our province about 20 years too early. Today, we are in the midst of a Northwestern (Oregon, Washington and B.C.) brewing renaissance. Since 2007, according to Joe Wiebe (author of 2013's Craft Beer Revolution), there has been an explosion of interest and activity on the independent brewing scene. Today, Vancouver is among the best places on the planet to enjoy a quality cold one. Yet one more thing I will raise a glass to on this Thanksgiving Day.
THANKSGIVING TURKEY LINKS: The Addams Family (1991); Car 54, Where Are You? (1994); Coneheads (1993); The Flintstones (1994); The Nude Bomb (1980).