DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com Comedy at Amazon.com.
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas
Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Max von Sydow, Paul Dooley, Lynne Griffin, Angus MacInnes, Tom Harvey
Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas

Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/01/2002

• “The Animated Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie” Short
SCTV “Great White North” Sketch
• Cast & Crew
• Theatrical Trailer


Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Strange Brew (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Why did I never see Strange Brew until the 2002 release of this DVD? Good question, one I’m not sure I can answer. After all, I fell strongly into the film’s target audience. I followed SCTV literally since its mid-Seventies inception, so I knew of the McKenzie brothers from day one of their existence. Created north of the border, authorities told the folks at SCTV that they needed some uniquely Canadian content, and the stereotypical beer-swilling and hockey-loving McKenzies came as the nose-thumbing result.

Who knew they’d become such a hit? Although I liked the characters and felt happy to see the prominence their success brought to SCTV, I never quite understood why they took off and the show’s other characters didn’t. (Martin Short’s Ed Grimly became fairly popular, but that didn’t occur until he’d moved to Saturday Night Live in 1984.) Actually, I should probably resent the McKenzies, for I believe their popularity hastened the death of the show. However, I don’t feel too bitter. SCTV lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful corpse; had it continued, the quality probably would have declined, so I’m happy with the memories and videotapes of the original shows.

In any case, the Bob and Doug fad proved to be short-lived. In fact, the bloom was already off the rose when their feature film Strange Brew hit screens in August 1983. The McKenzies peaked in early to mid 1982, so by late 1983, much of the public had moved on to other comedic trends.

I hadn’t - I’m pretty loyal about these things - so I still have no clue why I didn’t see Strange Brew theatrically. This must remain unexplained, I suppose, but it remains a fact that I never checked out the movie until now. Frankly, I wish I’d continued to pass on it. While not a dud, Strange Brew seems like a fairly uninspired and bland affair that doesn’t do justice to the SCTV legacy.

Strange Brew does start promisingly, however. Bob (Rick Moranis) and Doug (Dave Thomas) make their own movie, but it ain’t Strange Brew. Instead, we see their sci-fi opus The Mutants of 2051 AD. This goes over poorly with the audience, and after the boys give away their dad’s beer money as a ticket refund, they need to find away to get him some brew. They attempt a scam that involves a mouse in a beer bottle, and it actually works much better than expected. In addition to some free beer, it lands them jobs at Elsinore Breweries as bottle inspectors.

Along the way the boys meet Pam Elsinore (Lynne Griffin), the daughter of the recently deceased brewery patriarch. She wants to exert her legal control over the place, but Brewmeister Smith (Max Von Sydow) and her uncle Claude (Paul Dooley) - the new president of the company - try to oppose her. They do so mainly because they plan to use Elsinore beer to take over the world via a mind-control drug. To experiment, they use residents of a neighboring mental institution. Accidentally and inevitably, the McKenzies start to stumble onto things, so the baddies frame them. From there, the boys need to clear their names, stop the insidious plot, and also get drunk.

The McKenzies came from a modest place, and they deserved to stay there. Via their short “Great White North” programs on SCTV, they proved funny as we heard their warped provincial attitudes. Brew mixes in some of those moments, but mostly it comes across like something created by a couple of guys with too much time on their hands. Moranis and Thomas directed Brew, which sounds like a good idea but probably isn’t. I get the feeling they tried too hard to make a big flick that offers all things to all people and forgot the comedic roots of the characters.

To my surprise, Brew includes no SCTV regulars other than Moranis and Thomas. Those folks constantly appeared in each others’ projects, so it seems very odd that Moranis and Thomas didn’t carry over any of their old collaborators. Perhaps this resulted from an attempt to do their own thing, or maybe they burned some bridges when they quit the show. However, I think the isolation hurts the project, as additional comic inspiration would have been very useful.

Other than Moranis and Thomas, Brew includes a pretty lackluster cast. Actually, it features good performers in Dooley and Von Sydow, but neither stands out here. Dooley tries to hard to get his odd hair and dye job to act for him, while Von Sydow can’t decide if he should go for laughs or play it straight. Griffin seems like a virtual non-entity.

Overall, Strange Brew occasionally provides some laughs, but the expansion to the broad James Bond style plot doesn’t work for the characters. Instead, it overwhelms the modest charms that made them popular in the first place. During one episode of SCTV, the network exploits the McKenzies’ popularity via a star-studded prime-time special. Inevitably, it tries to make them something they’re not and it flops. Moranis and Thomas should have learned a lesson from that program, but apparently they thought they could rise above those limits. Strange Brew proves that assumption to be incorrect.

The DVD Grades: Picture C- / Audio C- / Bonus D+

Strange Brew appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While I didn’t expect an excellent picture from this movie, I still felt disappointed with the lackluster result.

Sharpness varied but usually seemed acceptable. The image occasionally came across as somewhat soft and fuzzy. Though those occasions appeared reasonably infrequent, I didn’t think the movie ever came across as terribly distinct and well defined; it remained decent at best. Though I saw no jagged edges, a little shimmer appeared, and I also noticed some modest edge enhancement. Print flaws caused the most concerns. The movie seemed rather grainy at times, and I also witnessed a scratch or two as well as a fair number of specks, marks, and grit. The picture seemed pretty messy much of the time.

Colors appeared erratic. Some exteriors looked appropriately rich and vivid, but other shots tended to come across as muddy and flat. Many Eighties comedies suffered from this bland nature, but Brew seemed a little weaker than usual. Black levels appeared fairly inky and drab, while shadow detail usually looked a little too dense and thick; for example, check out the murky scene in the brewery’s cafeteria. While not unwatchable, the picture of Strange Brew nonetheless seemed pretty forgettable.

The monaural audio of Strange Brew also provided a weak affair. (Note that although the DVD case claims to provide 2.0 surround sound, the track is definitely monaural.) Speech always remained intelligible, but dialogue tended to seem brittle, and I also noticed a fair amount of edginess to the lines. Effects showed a little distortion and generally appeared flat and lackluster, without any heft or range. The music lacked much clarity, as the score also showed muddy highs, but it did present decent low-end response given the age and general quality of the track. The movie’s synthesizer tones also displayed surprising depth. I noticed a little background hum and noise. In the end, the audio didn’t seem horrendous, but even given the age of the film, I couldn’t justify a grade above a “C-“ for the sound.

We get a few extras on Strange Brew. Easily the best of the bunch, we find the Great White North episode from SCTV that inspired part of the movie’s plot. Entitled “How to Stuff a Mouse In a Beer Bottle”, this 135-second piece offers more laughs than the entire film on which it was partially based. Man, what I wouldn’t do for full DVDs of SCTV!

In addition to the theatrical trailer for Strange Brew, we discover a four-minute and 40-second promo for The Animated Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Apparently an upcoming program, this piece introduces us to the cartoon brothers and their pals. This sucker could go either way; it might be funny, or it might stink. Lastly, the DVD ends with a Cast & Crew collection. We find “selected” filmographies for actors/co-writers/co-directors Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, actor Max Von Sydow, and co-writer Steve De Jarnatt. A Moranis/Thomas audio commentary would have been a very welcome addition to this underfeatured package.

After a promising start, Strange Brew quickly becomes bogged down in a silly and lifeless plot. This negates the compelling elements of its main characters and overwhelms them with useless plot information to the detriment of the comedy. The DVD offers fairly weak picture and sound plus only a small roster of extras. Though I feel disappointed by the bland audio and visuals, diehard Brew fans will still likely eagerly greet this release. Others should probably skip it, even those - or perhaps especially those - with an affection for the original McKenzie brothers TV sketches.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.303 Stars Number of Votes: 66
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.