“There is no way I’m not going to regret this. But fuck it. Let’s go.”
“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
That’s a line spoken by the guy who’s supposed to be the most sympathetic character in “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” and it sums up the philosophy of the movie perfectly. The main characters, three bros in their late 20s, make incredibly poor decisions — or more accurately, they allow their ringleader, Tucker Max (Matt Czuchry, “Gilmore Girls”) to make poor decisions for them, and everyone else suffers from the consequences.
We’re even supposed to care when Tucker’s actions screw over the group. Fat chance. Hang around guys like him and you get what you deserve.
The film is based on the book of the same title by the real-life Tucker Max (who also co-wrote the screenplay). The book consists of Max detailing various lewd and audacious episodes of his life in a manner that alternates between gloating and self-shaming. The book has been a best seller since its 2006 publication, bucking the stereotype that frat boys don’t read.
The film “Beer in Hell” stretches one of the book’s stories to feature length. Tucker’s friend Dan (Geoff Stults, TV’s “October Road”) is throwing his bachelor party, and Tucker convinces him and their other, more sardonic, friend Drew (Jesse Bradford, “Flags of our Fathers”) to drive to a strip club hours outside of town. Tucker also makes Dan commit to the excursion behind his fiancée’s back. The mastermind’s stated reason for this venture is that, because all the local strip clubs have a “no touching” policy that Tucker refuses to abide by, the boys need to get out of town. Tucker’s secret reason, however, is even worse, and it tells you everything about this film’s attitude toward sex as a sideshow attraction.
It’s at this point that Dan utters the opening line of this review, admitting he is too much of a pansy to ever argue with Tucker. It’s a shame because Tucker’s the kind of guy who needs to be reeled in at all times. Surely his best friends would realize this about him eventually — somewhere in between all his lies, insults and rationalizations of his alcoholism.
If the film had positioned itself as a dark, cautionary tale about what happens when dicks like Tucker aren’t controlled, it could have been a future cult classic. But “Beer in Hell” is ultimately too afraid (or admiring) of its despicable ringleader to push him as far as he needs to go.
Tucker Max is a hero to many college dudes for obvious reasons — he makes a lifestyle out of drinking, partying and being an asshole to women. He’s the straight male’s id with a sense of humor. And in the movie, Czuchry plays Tucker with a stupid grin permanently plastered on his face and a reckless demeanor that communicates just how little he cares about the world around him. Czuchry makes the audience hate him from the very start, which is exactly how the character should be portrayed.
In a poorly calculated move, however, the filmmakers decide to exile Tucker from the middle third of the film. In his place, Tucker’s two buddies, Dan and Drew, awkwardly become the emotional center of a movie that’s not supposed to have any emotion. Neither of them are likable, especially Bradford as the misanthropic Drew, who shoehorns pop culture references into all his dialogue and delivers his lines like he’s strangling kittens. The movie limps when the two sidekicks take the reigns, and there’s not enough of a payoff for it when Tucker returns to the screen. Yes, the group’s ringleader gets his comeuppance in the world’s longest poop joke, but this only serves to illustrate a key principle of poop jokes: They’re much funnier when you don’t see the poop.
Ultimately, the problem with “Beer in Hell” is not that it’s disgusting and morally repugnant. All of this was expected, and it’s not even the most misogynistic movie of the year — that honor goes to “Miss March.” No, the problem is that, unlike the book, the film fails to transform its repugnance into decent comedy, and that is ultimately Tucker Max’s downfall.