Strange Brew

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Strange Brew Movie Poster Image
Classic '80s send-up of Canada; lots of beer drinking.
  • PG
  • 1983
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. Lots of stereotypes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lead characters are intended to be the most over-the-top parody of beer-guzzling, not-that-bright Canadian bumpkins. The other characters are too one-dimensional to be viewed as positive role models. 

Violence

Comedic slapstick violence. Joke referencing prison rape. Bullets are placed up the nostrils of one of the lead characters to stop his bloody nose while in a courtroom; when he sneezes, the bullets are fired and ricochet around the room. A car chase culminates in the lead characters' van losing control and falling into a lake, where they are presumed dead. Characters shoot dart guns. Hockey violence. Kung fu violence. 

Sex

The brothers accidentally walk in on their parents having sex; no nudity. 

Language

"S--t," "damn," "hell," "sucks," "balls." After getting checked by several hockey players, one of the lead characters yells, "Ow! My left nut!" Middle finger gesture. The McKenzie Brothers frequently call each other "hoser," "hosehead," and "knob." Jokes centered around urination and flatulence. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer is the center of the McKenzie Brothers' lives. It's frequently consumed and discussed and is an integral part of the story. Jokes about driving drunk. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Strange Brew is a classic 1983 comedy in which Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas from SCTV bring their beloved Canadian "hosers," the McKenzie Brothers, to the silver screen. As the title implies, beer plays a big part in this movie. The brothers' lives seem to be centered around beer, and much of the movie takes place inside a brewery. In one scene, they even fill their dog's water dish with beer. Occasional profanity includes "s--t," "damn," "hell," "sucks," and "balls." Lots of humor is centered on flatulence and urination. The brothers call each other names like "hoser," "hosehead," and "knob"-- these and catchphrases such as "Take off, eh!" and "How's it goin', eh?" are memorable and easily appropriated by impressionable younger viewers looking for new/old insults and phrases. It might be worthwhile to talk about stereotyping; these toque-wearing, back-bacon eating, beer-swilling characters were created by Moranis and Thomas in response to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's demand that the SCTV television program devote a portion of each show to "Canadian content." 

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What's the story?

In STRANGE BREW, Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) have just given away the money their father (voiced by Mel Blanc) gave them to buy beer to refund one of the tickets purchased by an irate attendee of their dystopian science fiction no-budget B movie Mutants of 2051 A.D. With no job and no money, they decide to scam a local brewery by sticking a mouse inside an empty beer bottle and claiming that they found the mouse inside the bottle after purchasing the beer and are therefore entitled to a replacement case of beer. This leads Bob and Doug to Elsinore Brewery, where the owner of the brewery has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and the late brewer's wife married the brewer's brother immediately after the funeral. While the brewer's daughter, Pam, still retains 51% ownership of the brewery, the wicked brewmaster (Max von Sydow) has come up with a plan to not only take control of the brewery, but also conquer the world. He attempts to frame the bumbling McKenzie Brothers for murder, and they must find a way to prove their innocence, save Pam from getting a lobotomy, and foil the brewmaster's scheme. 

Is it any good?

There's a deceptive brilliance to this goofy movie. Sure, there's plenty of slapstick humor, memorable catchphrases such as "Take off, hoser!" and "Beauty, eh?" and jokes involving flatulence and urination, but it's also loosely based on Hamlet. And the bad guy in the midst of all this silliness is Max von Sydow -- best known for playing extremely solemn characters in Ingmar Bergman films. The lead characters themselves, Bob and Doug McKenzie, were created as a deliberate mockery of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's demand for more "Canadian content" on SCTV (a must-watch for all students of comedy, sketch comedy writers, and improv enthusiasts). Because of this sense of obvious parody and satire, to say nothing of the undeniable fact that Bob and Doug are also endearingly lovable losers, it's an extremely rare instance of stereotyping that's actually funny. 

For many children of the 1980s, the jokes and one-liners in Strange Brew are as memorable as anything in Caddyshack and This is Spinal Tap. Strange Brew might not be for everybody in much the same way The Three Stooges aren't for everybody, but these toque-wearing beer-obsessed "hosers" definitely still have a place among other bumbling comedy duos of the 20th century. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotyping. These characters were deliberately created to be over-the-top parodies of Canadian culture in response to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's demand for more "Canadian content" in SCTV. How is Strange Brew satire, as opposed to the typical stereotyping in movies and TV that's used to get cheap laughs at the expense of various ethnic groups and minorities? 

  • The storyline to Strange Brew loosely follows Hamlet. In fact, Bob and Doug McKenzie are modeled on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. There have been numerous movies based on Shakespeare plays and placed in modern settings. Why do you think filmmakers look to Shakespeare as a guide to telling their stories? 

  • Plenty of movies center on characters who first appeared on comedy shows -- SNL alone has dozens of such movies by now. What do you think the challenges would be in taking characters successful on sketch comedy shows and making feature-length films about them? 

Movie details

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