Doug and Bob McKenzie transfer their television show to the big screen as a science fiction epic, but it doesn't go down well with the cinema audience and they are forced to hand over their beer money as a refund, narrowly avoiding the riot that erupts as a consequence. To get more beer without paying for it, they pretend to have found a mouse in a bottle and head to the Elsinore brewery, only to find themselves embroiled with a sinister plot to take over the world...
Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis had great success on the Great White North segment of the SCTV comedy show as the simple-minded McKenzie brothers, two Canadian layabouts with one thing on their minds - beer and the enjoyment thereof. For their movie, which they co-wrote with Steve De Jarnatt, they adapted William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a comedy, so in the prince role is an heiress to the Elsinore Brewery, Pamela (Lynne Griffin), and her father's ghost turns up in an arcade game. OK, it's pretty loosely adapted, but you could always try Aki Kaurismäki's Hamlet Goes Business if it this wasn't faithful enough for you.
The McKenzie brothers are amiable fools, obsessed with securing their next drink, constantly arguing and putting each other down, but best friends at the end of the day. All the Canadian clichés were there: the beer, the ice hockey, that certain speech idiosyncrasy, and, erm, I can't think of any more Canadian clichés to be honest. The villain is a toothy Max von Sydow, who appears to have the least number of henchmen since Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie, indeed if there's not exactly a creepy air to the proceedings, the lack of people, of humanity, other than what our heroes do for interaction with each other is weirdly unsettling, as if something truly bad is about to happen.
While it's always nice to see stupidity triumph over evil, Strange Brew isn't entirely hilarious, and its plot isn't exactly coherent, even resorting to a superdog as a deus ex machina. There were some good laughs: the spinning newspaper, the bullets up the nose, the effects of drinking gallons of beer all at once; and a few good lines ("There's a biiiig skunk in there"), but you get the impression that the McKenzie brothers were a little lacking in depth to carry off a whole movie. Considering the original segments on television were two minutes long at most and came across as improvised on the spot, it's not surprising that here they seem hamstrung by having to adhere to an entire, ninety minute plot.
I'd rather watch this than some of those Saturday Night Live spinoffs, mind you, and Thomas and Moranis did conjure up some examples of memorable lunacy as they spoofed their Canadian citizens, but mainly sent up themselves, though the origin of the characters might have led you to expect a more small screen-based set of gags than the ones you actually get. None of their fellow SCTV alumni appear, and the full title - The Adventures of Bob & Doug Mackenzie: Strange Brew - looks to have been optimistically hoping for a franchise for them, not something that ever happened though a cartoon series was mooted. The appeal of these two was their simple integrity: they knew what they liked and each knew they could not do well without their brother, so a late on twist that sees them apart for the first time ever is oddly sweet. Music by Charles Fox. Keep watching the credits.