Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Strange Brew

Warner Bros. // PG // March 1, 2016
List Price: $12.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 9, 2016 | E-mail the Author
Note: Although screencaps should only be considered an idea of what the disc looks like, click any capture in this review to expand the image to a full size .png.

When discussing sketch comedy characters adapted for feature films, "Saturday Night Live" dominates the conversation, and their generally underwhelming track record certainly paints the process as a challenging one. However, outside of "SNL", sketch characters have a slightly better batting average. Pee-Wee Herman was developed through The Groundlings and television apperances before getting an HBO special and a movie. Zoolander popped up on VH1 fashion shows long before he had at least one well-liked motion picture. Topping them all is Strange Brew, the feature-length outing for Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas' "SCTV" characters Bob and Doug McKenzie. The film doesn't seem to have developed more than a cult following in the US, but when put up against "SNL" adaptations, it probably only falls short of The Blues Brothers in wit and invention.

The struggle between sketch and silver screen mostly relates to how long the audience is asked to spend with characters they normally only see for five minutes at a time. In general, the attempted solution -- the wrong one -- is to try and deepen the characters beyond the shallow caricatures that score laughs in smaller doses. Moranis and Thomas, who not only star, but also directed and co-wrote the script (with Miracle Mile's Steve De Jarnatt, using nothing less lofty than "Hamlet" as a source of inspiration), are smarter than that, filling the film with other, more developed characters who can move the story forward and help meter the amount of Bob and Doug the audience gets over the course of 90 minutes.

In this case, those characters include Pam Elsinore (Lynne Griffin), who has just inherited the family brewery after her father was found dead under suspicious circumstances. Although her uncle, Claude Elsinore (Paul Dooley) reassures her that everything is fine, she and loyal factory foreman Henry Green (Douglas Campbell) are sure something is up. In fact, Claude and the intimidating Brewmeister Smith (Max Von Sydow) are cooking up a drug that will allow Elsinore to hypnotize their customers into buying more beer, and possibly other sinister behaviors. Bob and Doug stumble into the fray when they visit the brewery in the hopes of scoring a free case with a mouse-in-a-bottle scam, and end up stumbling upon the Brewmeister's schemes.

"A clothesline plot" is a criticism often leveled at these kinds of comedies, but the problem isn't necessarily the flimsiness of the story, but how seriously the filmmakers expect the viewers to invest in it. Strange Brew's other stroke of genius is never once taking its elaborate conspiracy story seriously. The film opens with an elaborate movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie bit with Bob and Doug screening a post-apocalyptic thriller they made themselves. Brewmeister Smith uses ex-hockey players, held prisoner in a nearby insane asylum, as guinea pigs for his experiments. A crucial secret is hidden inside an arcade machine. One character is trapped in an industrial-sized beer tank in an attempt to drown them, only to drink all the beer and inflate into a gigantic balloon. The entire movie is so deeply and thoroughly silly, the story (even with its Shakespearean roots) hardly matters.

Although the film's success rests on using its heroes judiciously, Bob and Doug are perfectly-crafted sketch characters, whose stupidity and brotherly rivalry only makes them more endearing. They spend most of the movie yelling delightfully Canadian insults at each other, but are always basically good-natured and enthusiastic characters whose clockwork predictability has no impact on how funny they are. The film also has a real MVP in the form of Angus MacInnes, who plays a former pro-hockey player named Jean "Rosie" LaRose. In a clever bit of subversion, Rosie is the real romantic lead and broad-chested hero of the picture, whose willingness to stand up to Brewmeister Smith and his dastardly experiments is unwittingly inspired by Bob and Doug. The film starts to lose a tiny amount of steam as it heads toward an extended resolution at Oktoberfest, but again, Moranis and Thomas are wise enough to know when to make their exit, wrapping the movie up just before it overstays its welcome. Take off!

The Blu-ray
It's rare that Blu-rays upgrade the artwork along with the quality of the presentation, but Strange Brew has its fairly pedestrian photographic DVD art replaced by a beautiful painted image that summarizes the movie's many idiosyncratic moments (although I think Thomas' caricature could look a little less psychotic). The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC, Strange Brew gets a very strong upgrade to high definition. Clarity and depth are significantly improved over the DVD edition, giving the image a depth and vibrancy that makes it seem more like a modern production, although the healthy grain structure still gives the movie's age away. There is a slight sense of Warner's usual cooling lean, with the film's blues a little richer, and the image appearing a little darker overall, but the shift in the palette is not as noticeable as it has been on some other Warner Blu-rays. Sound is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that doesn't necessarily immerse the viewer in the film any more than the previous 2.0 stereo mix, but it does seem a bit crisper and richer. A Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Check out four additional screencaps by clicking right here.

The Extras
Although I think everyone would've liked to see a new commentary by Moranis and Thomas, the Blu-ray merely offers the same minimal bonus features from the DVD, including a promo for an animated Bob and Doug McKenzie show, and a classic SCTV sketch. An original theatrical trailer is also included.

Strange Brew may be a well-liked cult classic, but it deserves to be a regular classic, ranked among the funniest contemporary comedies of the 1980s. Anyone attempting a sketch comedy movie should refer to it as a guidebook, and this new Blu-ray will hopefully provide an opportunity for a whole new generation of hosers to check it out. The lack of any new features, especially a commentary, is disappointing, but the disc is nonetheless highly recommended.

Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.
Buy from






Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links