“Take off, you hoser” quickly ushered its way into my lexicon after watching Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas‘ Strange Brew when I was a kid. I was taken in by the over the top Canadian-isms like the usage of “eh?” at the end of many sentences, the term “horked” in place of stealing, and multiple references to back bacon. I was getting culture and didn’t even know it. Little did I know in 1983 (at the age of 8) that this film was based on William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. Talk about getting some undercover culture, eh?
Strange Brew is also based on the characters from Moranis and Thomas Great White North skits from SCTV.The skits were mostly improvised, really intoxicated and were used to fill the two minutes that Canadian channels had, but US stations didn’t have because of commercials/syndication. Here’s one:
So, what happens when you add these two slackers to a classic Shakespearian tragedy? Hilarity, unbridled hilarity.
This movie was shot in 3B: three beers and it looks good.
The movie opens about as oddly as a movie can, aside from this, which is fucking awesome:
After this, the movie starts out like one of their skits from SCTV and then shows that what we’re seeing is a film within a film. We eventually transition to the world of Bob & Doug when the film reel breaks and we are taken inside the movie theater where the film (The Mutants of 2051 AD) is playing. When one patron remarks that the material has been featured on a previous album, several revolt causing Bob & Doug, who are actually in the theater, to use one of the tricks they had just spoken about on-screen, using moths to sabotage a terrible movie:
So after Bob & Doug escape the theater, we get the real sense of their lives: they live with their mother and father (who is voiced by cartoon God Mel Blanc), have no jobs, eat donuts (is this a Canadian thing as well) and drink beer all day. But didn’t they just come from their own movie premiere? But that doesn’t matter. That’s all scenery. When the boys grab the last three beers in the fridge, they each drink one, but then give the last one to their dog, Hosehead. When their father yells that they better save one for him, they chug those that they have then pour the remains of Hosehead’s into a glass, complete with the remnant of the food that was in his dog bowl in one of the most disgusting images I’ve ever seen in a movie.
When neither one will give the beer to their father, they drop the glass breaking it. Their father tells them to go get more beer, but they can’t because Bob gave the money to a father and two kids who’d been saving their allowance to see The Mutants of 2051 AD. So now they have to figure out how to get beer when they have no money. This is what happens:
So when they go to the Elsinore brewery (Elsinore is the castle in which Hamlet, his mother and stepfather/uncle live), the chain of events unfolds for the rest of the film following the basic storyline of Hamlet. Pamela Elsinore (Lynne Griffin) playing the Hamlet role, is set to inherit the Elsinore brewery under protestation from her uncle Claude (Paul Dooley) and her mother Gertrude (Jill Frappier). Claude has been working with Dr. B.M. Smith (Ingmar Bergman regular and cinematic heavyweight Max von Sydow), resident head of psychiatry at the Royal Canadian Institute for Mentally Insane and brewmeister at the brewery have been working on a plan to control the worlf by putting mind control drugs in their beer. If Pamela takes over, Smith and Claude will be ousted from their jobs an unable to complete their task. Bob and Doug, playing the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern roles, with help from former stud hockey player Jean LaRose (Angus MacInnes) and their wonderdog Hosehead, are able to thwart the plans of Smith and Claude and restore order to their world.
Take off or I’m going to do the steamroller…
This movie really has it all, including maybe the best brother relationship ever committed to film. Even though they annoy the shit out of each other frequently leading to fights and squabbles, the MacKenzie Brothers always have each other’s back. And even in the face of danger and commitment to the Loony Bin (a phrase I picked up watching this movie and one I still use to this day), they still have fun:
And without a doubt, they have my all-time favorite dog in cinema – Hosehead. Why do you ask? Here’s one reason:
And perhaps the best reason:
How many dogs do you know that can surreptitiously drop evidence on a cop from a roof and then slink away, rolling across said roof like a ninja? That’s right…none. Hosehead for President.
And what would a movie from Canada about Canada be without hockey, right? Well, this one’s got that, too. And not only do they have hockey, they have hockey with LUNATICS!
This is still one of the most fun movies I’ve ever seen and still is able to bring the laughs. While the MacKenzie Brothers have been long gone, we will always have this film to remember them. And like the few other 80s classics I’ve written about lately, Strange Brew has a great theme song by Ian Thomas. Like I said, this one’s got it all.
Here’s the trailer: