TV, DVD, podcast

Strange Brew film review

It’s a film that was the forerunner to films like the Bill & Ted series and Dumb and Dumber. But it’s also a film that references William Shakespeare. Hard to believe but it’s true.

It’s Strange Brew, the 1983 Canadian film about brothers Doug and Bob McKenzie (played by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis). They’re a bit dopey and hatch a scheme to score free beer from a local bottle shop by putting a live mouse in an empty bottle and claiming they found it that way.

The shop owners laugh at them and tell them to talk to the brewery. So they do, scoring a job there and managing to foil the evil scheme of brewmeister Smith (Max Von Sydow). An evil and weird scheme – he’s placing a mind-control drug in the beer which will make drinkers attack others when certain musical tones are played. He’s been testing it on patients at the insane asylum next door, linked to the breweries by underground tunnels.

Yep, it’s a weird film. And, given its early ’80s origins, some really cheesy effects. But it’s not dumb – how can you consider a film that is loaded with references to Hamlet to be dumb? For starters the beer company in question is called Elsinore Beer – in Hamlet much of the action takes place in Elsinore Castle.

Hamlet’s plot involves Hamlet’s father dying at the hands of his uncle, who then marries Hamlet’s mother. In Strange Brew Pamela (a name not dissimilar to Hamlet) takes over the brewery after (spoiler!) her dad dies at her uncle’s hand and he then woos her mother. Also, the ghost of the dead father appears in both instances to deliver some significant information.

Then there are themes of madness and people drowning, and the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern nature of the McKenzie brothers. And all of this you would never notice if it wasn’t pointed out to you. So now I’ve done that, you should go see Strange Brew, it’s a great beer film.

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