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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL"


 
My review of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell needs to be prefaced with an admission: I'd never heard of Tucker Max before this movie. Around the time production started, the delightfully snarky blog Gawker began running a series of Max-bashing articles that ran up through the film's theatrical release and beyond. It was there that I learned the guy is (allegedly) an unrepentant egotist prone to writing/bragging about his debaucherous exploits. Still, I never bothered to actually read any of his stuff, including the best-selling memoir on which this film is based, and so I really didn't know what to expect when I popped in the DVD. My gut instinct tells me that Max's fans may find the movie watered down; personally, I thought it was mildly amusing, although not the timelessly anarchic, Hangover-style comedy it clearly wants to be.

Matt Czuchry stars as Tucker Max, a party boy who wants to throw his pal Dan (Geoff Stults) the ultimate bachelor party before he marries Kristy (Keri Lynn Pratt). Dan promises Kristy that he'll be good, but Tucker soon tricks him - and depressed third wheel Drew (Jesse Bradford) - into patronizing an anything-goes strip joint. It is there that Tucker schmoozes the strippers, hooks Drew up with one of the dancers, and nearly blows Dan's engagement.

The movie-ized plot of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is pretty thin: Tucker acts like a lecherous fool, Dan and Drew get pissed off at him, and eventually he realizes that he needs to atone for his bad behavior. In between all of that are sexual shenanigans and frequent nudity, all of the "hard-R" variety. Some of things that happen are quite funny. The movie's biggest set piece comes when Tucker gets a disgusting comeuppance that involves a luxury hotel's sparking white floor and his own bodily fluids.

I think fans of the book will cry foul at the ending. It gives nothing away to say that Tucker tries to undo the damage he's done in an act of redemption. As it often does in movies, that involves making a heartfelt speech in front of a room full of people. From what I know of Tucker Max, redemption is perhaps not his thing, or at least it may not have been in Beer's book form. The final 15 minutes go for a conventional bad-boy-makes-good feeling that almost seems antithetical to who we've been told Tucker fundamentally is. Okay, so it's bogus. I wasn't so much bothered by that because, like I said, I knew very little about the real guy.

To my mind, the fact that the acting is better than expected helps to sell any forced qualities the screenplay may have. Matt Czuchry played another charming-but-spoiled rich kid on TV's great "Gilmore Girls," so he knows how to make you like/loathe a character simultaneously. In his hands, Tucker Max is like Logan Huntzburger times fifty. Czuchry does a good job at showing how Tucker is hard to resist in spite of his often-boorish behavior. That's essential, because if we don't like this guy even a little, the whole movie falls apart.

Also good is Jesse Bradford, who plays the bitter Drew. Bradford gets most of the movie's best lines, each of which he delivers with sarcastic mastery. Drew is essentially our surrogate in many ways, commenting on the shallowness of Tucker's need to instigate trouble wherever he goes.

Admittedly - and despite some legit laughs - the film's non-stop sexual content grows tiresome. There are moments where it threatens to tip over into a vacuous, drunken frat boy type of comedy. Still, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell had surprisingly good performances and enough laughs to make it a decent diversion for me. I seriously doubt the movie is going to appeal to the mainstream, but it definitely has a potential future as a cult favorite.

( 1/2 out of four)

DVD Features:

The disc comes with over 20 minutes of deleted scenes, including alternate takes. A few trailers are also included.


I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is rated R for nudity, strong sexual content including graphic dialogue throughout, language and some crude material. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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