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DVD Review: Beer (1985)

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The world of advertising is a cutthroat one indeed. It’s also a terribly foolish one, wherein ad agencies tend to come up with the worst ideas in order to help clients sell their products. We’ve had Nostradamus sell McDonald’s hamburgers from beyond the grave, heard talking Taco Bell foods brag about their baseball-catching abilities so they can sneak into the game (!), and we’ve even witnessed creepy rodent thingies pushing Quiznos Sub sandwiches. All in the name of the Holy Dollar; and it has always been this way, I’m afraid: a simple glance at a vintage magazine will unveil Philip Morris Cigarettes being compared to the joys of holding a newborn baby, and cops and hippies getting along simply by sharing some Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

And then there are those ads for Beer.

This 1985 comedy — produced by some of the same people who brought us such classics as Rocky and such atrocities as Rocky IV — is a biting satire on the advertising industry present in the early and mid ‘80s, wherein an ad agency desperate to hold onto Norbecker Beer — their biggest client, and run by crazed German (Kenneth Mars) — attempts to brew up the biggest marketing campaign in order to promote . So, ad exec B.D. Tucker (Loretta Swit) partners up with former filmmaker Buzz Beckerman (Rip Torn, sporting a fake beard) and promptly determines the beverage in question needs to be promoted by an everyday working-class American. And then, like a bolt out of the blue, three average Joes (David Alan Grier, William Russ, and Saul Stein) accidentally prevent a lunatic from robbing the bar they’re all in.

Even though their heroic actions are completely unintentional on their part, the three struggling men soon become the biggest sensations in the States, lending their faces and personas to outrageous commercials that wind up being extremely controversial (though they’re relatively tame by today’s terrible ads), to wit Norbecker Beer becomes even more successful. They start out by bailing out the very lunatic (Alan C. Peterson) whose plot they inadvertently foil just so they can “re-enact” their fateful moment together. They cross the line, however, once the producers try to shamelessly exploit a grueling, real life trek through the desert that the boys actually go through when their plane goes down one afternoon while en route to California. It is right then and there that the fun officially stops for our onscreen heroes.

The fun stops for the audience much sooner, though. It’s clear that the writer of Beer, one Allan Weisbecker (who did little else of note), had a funny idea for a spoof; one that would have made for a memorable skit, but which, ultimately needs a lot more in order to “make it” as a feature film. Rip Torn does a grand job as the director, while many of the film’s other performers are downright despicable. There’s an amusing bit with Dick Shawn parodying Phil Donahue as the host of a controversial talk show that results in a giggle or two (for anyone that remembers Donahue, that is), and the film ends with an incredibly contemptible commercial at the end advertising Norbeck Lite exclusively to the gay community (wherein Kenneth Mars really hams it up in a sauna filled with horny men), but the ad seems to have been butchered considerably in post-production.

Actually, the whole movie seems to be missing footage; that or director Patrick Kelly (who, according to the IMDb, never went on to do anything else in the realm of film) really had no idea what he was doing. As a result, Beer is a rather unfunny film filled with too many stereotypes (it was the mid ‘80s, after all) and not enough pressure to keep itself interested after twenty minutes. It’s as weak as some of those awful low-calorie cervezas out there.

And now, to pass the pain along, here are a couple of really dumb jokes that kept popping into my head while I was writing this, but weren’t appropriate to fit in the review itself:

This Beer isn’t even good enough to play pong with.

More like near-Beer.

A fatal glass of Beer.

Everything you ever wanted in a Beer. And less.

The coldest tasting Beer in the world.

I hope they serve Beer in Hell.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.